2002: Review of the year – Part IV (Oct-Dec)


20 Dec 2002

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Looking back over 2002, LISA DEENEY selects the main movers and shakers in public and private sectors, the dotcoms and the dotbombs, and the big deals that made the headlines in a difficult year.

OCTOBER

Vodafone unveiled Vodafone Live!, a mobile portal that finally makes some use of it GPRS network, ushering in a new era of mobile communications where games, downloads, data and picture messaging are pushed with as much verve as voice calls. Not to be left out, O2 unveiled its Media Messaging service and Games Arcade portal.
In the doom and gloom stakes, this time it was Nortel that shed jobs – 200 from its Co Antrim plant and another 20 went in its Galway facility. Dublin-based Silicon & Software Systems (S3) laid off 80 people in its European operations, 50 in Ireland.
The slow road towards terrestrial digital TV stepped down another gear this month. It’s TV, a consortium headed up by former RTÉ executive Peter Branagan and venture capitalist firm Delta Partners, had put together a bid for a licence to operate a digital TV service in Ireland. It withdrew its application in October.
Despite the lack of enthusiasm for new technology projects among investors this year, ICC Venture Capital injected a further €3.2m in an Athlone-based software firm, 2PM Technologies.
Enterprise resource planning and supply chain firm Mapics expanded into the Irish market in alliance with its UK-partner Open Business Solution. Dublin web services firm Cape Clear Software won a deal to enable BSKYB automate a range of customer services over the internet.
Strategic Management Group (SMG) announced it is to invest €5m in its Irish operation, SMG Ireland, a developer of e-learning systems.
Done deals included Irish software house Performix, which signed a contract with Intelligent France, a division of the UK’s largest retail bank, Halifax plc. And more good news as Ebookers, an online European travel firm, created 20 Irish jobs for its Dublin-based management project and EU training business development centre. The expansion will see the centralisation of its online marketing and website design in Dublin.
And Bank of Ireland took the October biscuit when it registered its 50,000th user, Irish Biscuits Ltd, for its internet online banking service, Business On Line.

NOVEMBER

Mobile networks got the message out this month as their new multimedia services were finally launched. To celebrate the occasion, Nokia blitzed Dublin’s Pearse Street Dart station with billboards for its 7650 camera phone.
The long-awaited tablet PC, spurred on by Microsoft, was launched this month. Microsoft Ireland’s country manager, Joe Macri, proclaimed the arrival of tablet PCs marked yet another mobile computing revolution. Hewlett-Packard, Fujitsu Siemens, Toshiba and Acer all came to the party clutching fancy new hardware.
Funding, or lack of it, was one of the main issues during November 2002. Irish venture capital activity fell significantly in the year’s third quarter, according to an Ernst & Young and VentureOne report. Funding from European ventures dropped 76pc, compared with the previous quarter to €14m.

DECEMBER

The sector got a new regulatory body this month, ComReg, to take over from the defunct ODTR. The commission is headed up by chairperson Etain Doyle, John Doherty, who was previously head of market operations at the ODTR, and Isolde Goggin, a former member of the Competition Authority.
Hot on the heels of internal trials from Eircom in a number of hotel chains, O2 announced it was testing a number of public wireless hotspots. Vodafone refused to jump on the bandwagon and let it be known it was waiting to be convinced that there was a viable business model for public wireless local area networks.
Good news on the finance front with AIB Equity leading a €2m investment in Dublin-based Similarity Systems. Also, SkillSoft, the company that is currently facing at least three legal actions over improperly booked revenues at Irish e-learning firm SmartForce which it acquired, secured a four-year purchase agreement that would give the US Air Force worldwide access to 1,200 IT courses online.
The IDA revealed that it ploughed €191m into Intel’s Leixlip facilities and is investing a further €150m to support the construction of Intel’s US$2.1bn Fab 24 chip fabrication facility in Co Kildare.

Pictured: Etain Doyle, chairperson of newly formed ComReg