2004: Review of the Year – Part II (April-June)

29 Dec 2004

How was it for you? Did the green shoots of recovery spring up within your business? Did new technology deliver its promise? Take a roller-coaster ride through the year that was: the highs, the lows and the never-ending e-voting debacle.

As interest in the accession states and presidential fever gripped the nation (sort of), Digital Ireland revealed that cross-border co-operation was already here through technology-transfer projects.

The Department of Agriculture helped its Polish counterpart upgrade its IT systems and the Revenue Commissioners has advised a number of member states on modern methods of tax collection.

Microsoft started its media blitz to accompany the launch of its customer relationship management offering. Apple enjoyed a 909pc increase in iPod sales over the quarter.

Fujitsu Services completed its internal restructuring bringing three different units under one moniker. The highlight of eWeek, a seven-day showcase of all things technological, was the launch of Mobhaile, an umbrella name for a range of local e-citizen services managed by the Local Government Computer Services Board (LGCSB).

Aer Lingus cut queues with a new automated check-in service. CEO Willie Walsh was at the launch. Little did we know he was only months away from checking out. The Armagh-Monaghan Digital Corridor gathered momentum and announced the creation of 150 tech jobs.

Microsoft and Cara won a major IT contract with Cork County Council while Fineos deployed its imaging and business automation technology into the UK’s Northern Rock.

Sign of the times and a more dubious landmark came when one-time Irish trailblazer Baltimore announced its withdrawal from the tech sector to concentrate on clean energy systems in the US. Sign of things to come?

The never-ending story: submissions to the commission on e-voting showed that a huge majority of respondents were against the system proposed by the Government.

Vodafone launched the increasingly popular BlackBerry while Nokia issued a warning that its next-quarter sales would be down. Peace broke out when Sun and Microsoft settled their differences (to the tune of US$1.95bn in Microsoft‘s case) and paved the way for closer co-operation.

Forfás warned that overseas competition and the rising costs of doing business in Ireland were causing a decline in employment levels in Irish manufacturing.

Open source got another boost when e-payment firm Trintech unveiled a Linux strategy. New management at the IE domain registry reported an operating profit of €481k.

O2 launched BlackBerry to the consumer. Dell sales jumped 21pc. Intel invested €1.6bn in its Leixlip facility.

Some 38pc of Irish adults were now online, according to the latest Joint National Internet Research report. Yahoo! and Eircom.net were the most visited sites. According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, Ireland was the most entrepreneurially active country in Europe.

An 18-year-old German student was arrested for writing the infamous Sasser worm. Presidential events were coming to a head but Ireland’s sense of European self-importance was somewhat diminished by the annual Accenture e-government ranking that had us placed as a non-mover, still stuck at No 11. The Government finally decided it wouldn’t be using its e-voting system in the June polls.

Good news for Meteor as its subscriber base neared 200,000. SAP did a €550k deal to roll out an IP network to Siemens’ Global Services Centre in Dublin.

IDC predicted the global IT market would grow 5-7pc annually between 2005 and 2008. Ireland is expected to be ahead of its European counterparts with growth predicted to be in the low teens. Esat BT launched Ireland’s first hosted VoIP service for small businesses and IBM invested €22m in a new R&D facility in Santry.

Dublin-based Systemhouse Technologies was acquired by security firm TSG for €7m. Eircom profits rose 9pc. Vodafone revenues were up 19pc and Esat BT turnover increased by 20pc. Online advertising revenues broke records in the US.

Citrix announced plans to double its employment in Ireland with the creation of 30 jobs. Calyx said it was to invest in a €2m consulting division. But just in case we were starting to believe that the mythical green shoots of recovery were starting to flower, bad news came from Sun who confirmed that 24 workers were to be laid off as part of its global rationalisation plans.

Variants of the Netsky worm were the most virulent this month but it was an old-fashioned computer malfunction rather than a malicious attack behind an air traffic control disruption that snarled up the skies over the UK.

In the same month that the Limerick MAN opened for business, it was announced that eNet has won the contract to manage the MANs.

The procurement process for an electronic Hospital Information System was concluded with the €500m contract awarded to UK document management specialist iSoft. Its iPatient system will be rolled out over the next five years.

National University of Ireland Galway opened a web technology institute. Security researchers discovered what was believed to be the first worm for mobile phones. Known as Cabir, the worm infects phones running the Symbian operating system but it isn’t thought to be malicious so don’t panic, yet.

Irish mobile phone operators launched a code of practice to promote the sensible and safe use of mobile phones in a bid to counter concern over intrusive and unsuitable picture messaging.

Pictured is Apple’s iPod, the most desirable piece of kit from 2004

By Ian Campbell