2004: Review of the Year – Part IV (Oct-Dec)

31 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.

Following a nine-month investigation the European Commission decided to approve the Business Expansion Scheme and Seed Capital Scheme — vital sources of funding for young Irish technology firms. Communications Minister challenged the Irish telecommunications industry to have a minimum of 400,000 broadband subscribers signed up by the end of 2006.

As speculation mounted as to how and when Eircom would make its much-mooted return to the mobile market, Meteor assured us once again that it is doing very nicely thank you and no, it’s not for sale. At around the same time that Irish retailer Compustore ceased trading and went into voluntary liquidation, PC World, owned by UK retail giant Dixons, created 30 new jobs as part of a €2m expansion plan.

Dell and EMC signed a €2m storage deal to implement storage infrastructure for the ESB. Sun announced plans to establish a localisation lab at the University of Limerick and Buy4now.ie sold its home-made retail solution for €4m.

Business Objects, a business intelligence software firm, announced 350 new jobs in Dublin while Ireland escaped unscathed in CA‘s round of global job cuts. Hoping to reinstate itself in the No 1 spot in storage, IBM launched a new product with a monster capacity. Beaumont Hospital extended its support for open source when 45 existing servers were replaced with a consolidated Linux environment based on three servers.

Microsoft launched its Irish MSN site, signing local content deals with RTÉ, Golden Pages and VHI. The Irish Software Association called on the Government to create an intellectual property service centre — one to watch in 2005.

Minister for Enterprise Micheál Martin TD said there had been a fivefold increase in the Government’s spend on R&D. A consortium of public and private organisations spearheaded a nationwide campaign to increase public awareness around information security, snappily labelled Make IT Secure.

Voice and data service provider, eTel, scooped first place in the Deloitte Fast 50 Awards. The LGCSB was the first organisation to sign up to Microsoft‘s new Solutions Sharing Network, an information and collaboration portal for the public sector.

Storage leader EMC is to create 60 IT sales jobs by 2005 following the opening of a new solutions centre in Cork, where Sage also launched a new division, creating a further 30 jobs.

Vodafone became the first mobile operator to launch a 3G service in Ireland in what CEO Paul Donovan described as “the start of the most important transformation the industry has known”.

O2 announced a total revenue increase of 13pc on the corresponding period last year. The board of PeopleSoft unanimously rejected Oracle‘s latest offer of US$24 a share, citing PeopleSoft’s solid growth outlook and a belief that the company is in better shape than when Oracle’s buyout campaign began.

Dell opened its new Irish outlet store, selling refurbished computers at heavily discounted prices with a minimum of a one-year warranty. Irish telcos show a “dramatic disregard” for online customers, a global survey revealed. One third of 65 Irish telecom players do not have any privacy policies and absolutely none of them provides websites accessible to users with disabilities. It wasn’t all bad news. The relatively high drop-out rate among students taking ICT courses is being successfully tackled. Students who successfully completed end-of-year engineering examinations improved by 38pc in 2004. This follows an even healthier 45pc rise in 2003.

Sold! PeopleSoft goes to Oracle for US$10.3bn putting an end to one of the longest-running takeover battles in IT history. During the tender battle, PeopleSoft had rejected five bids by Oracle and employed a ‘poison pill’ takeover defense. “After careful consideration, we believe this revised offer provides good value for PeopleSoft stockholders and represents a substantial increase in value from October,” said George Battle, chairman of PeopleSoft’s transaction committee.

ComReg came to a conclusion that everyone else had arrived at years ago when it declared that the Irish post-paid mobile market lacks serious competition, with both O2 and Vodafone sharing 94pc of the existing market. In a bid to shake up the market ComReg has instructed both operators to allow for the hosting of mobile virtual network operators, a move it says will translate to a 25pc reduction or more in call costs for Irish mobile users. ComReg said it is already expecting “vociferous” objections to its decision from O2 and Vodafone but said it would not let this deter it from this course.

An early Crimbo present for the PC industry came from Forrester when it predicted that the global PC market was set to double by 2010 due to sizeable PC adoption rates in emerging markets such as China, Russia and India. China is expected to lead the growth, with 178 million new PC users by 2010.

More Christmas cheer came when the IDA declared that Ireland was now officially a knowledge economy! The successful attainment by IDA Ireland of “quality” investments during 2004 by Intel, Bell Labs, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Pfizer, Merrill Lynch, Business Objects, Dell and McAfee have proved that Ireland has successfully moved itself up the value chain. This year marked the best year the IDA reported since the halcyon job creation days that peaked in 2000.

Pictured were (from left): Vodafone’s strategy director Gerry Fahy and CEO Paul Donovan project a new image at the launch of 3G commercial services

By Ian Campbell