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In the† information-driven New Economy where technology changes faster than Al Gore can say recount, we are faced with a dilemma of when, why and how to upgrade our software, hardware and knowledge base.

I had a chance to see first-hand the anxious consumers gobble up the hype offered by Steve Jobs at the recent Seybold conference in San Francisco. Apple had a great setup there, showcasing their latest 22 inch flat panel studio display monitor, which is bar none the best monitor on the market, but with a price tag of $3,999.00 is far out of reach-except for well funded graphic design companies. What a concept, a $4,000 monitor that doesn't work with a PC.

Adobe was there showcasing their 6.0 version of Photoshop. I have been using Photoshop for a few years and am on my third version. This is ludicrous. Just when I have learned about 67% of the current versionís functions, a whole slew of new features comes out in a new version. This keeps it interesting, but how do we stay on top? The greatest new feature in Photoshop 6.0 is its transition to a vector-based format, which allows resolution-independent graphics, and type to be incorporated into pixel based images for greater flexibility. As a bonus they included new drawing tools and shapes to create shape layers. For the complete list see Adobeís website. These new features are outstanding, but they may be cutting into their own customer base. By offering so many features, some of us no longer need their companion drawing program called Illustrator.

So when to upgrade? You can wait until the price becomes reasonable, at least with hardware. I have to admit, being the consumer that I am; I like to have the latest and greatest like a lot of people. Once you get that overnight software package from your favorite online distributor, when will you have time to learn to use all these new features? Many people rarely use them and have, in effect, wasted that $199.00 upgrade. Then there is the compatibility issue. Will I be able to open and edit the vector based image with 5 translucent, blended, masked layers someone saved in their future version 9.0 with my old Photoshop 5.0 version? They say it is backwards compatible, but you may lose any functions that are not in the older version. Are you willing to take that chance? The old version actually runs faster, it is a smaller program. You can wait to upgrade with every other version, but that gives us twice as many new features to learn. Damn.

They say you can get a new computer every year with twice the computing power as last years model for the same price. Using that unwritten law, in ten years time, we will go from the New Pentium IV at 1.5 Gigahertz to†a 1526 Gigahertz Petium XIV-that is 1,526,000,000,000 cycles per second. And you can bet that Adobe will have that version 9.0 ready to go right along with it. It will have minimum system requirements of something like a Pentium VIII with 4 Gigabytes memory and 10 Gigabytes hard drive space for their 12 cd software package. When does it all end?

The continued interest rate hikes which are now starting to catch up with these large corporations producing hardware and software, may have something to do with widespread losses (or less than expected earnings) being reported in the technology sector. Many companies and home users have decided to wait for that upgrade. Who needs a 1.5 Gigahertz processor? Not the average home user, not yet. This has lead to lower PC and even software demand. Adding to the pile, our recent bumbled election, has produced many nervous investors. Nervous investors create widespread havoc in the markets. Selling off thier stocks at a loss to prevent further losses. This is bad, but how long can you hold on.

In the technology sector, with more companies than I can count reporting reduced revenues for the quarter, we may have hit a wall. Companies whose stock was at 80 early this year are now lucky to be one of the ones still listed in the NASDAQ, because they initiated a reverse stock split. They take your 100 shares of company X and do an 8 for 1 reverse stock split leaving you with 12 shares worth a few dollars a share. This in addition to Microsoft reporting, for the first time ever, that its quarterly earnings will fall short of Wall Street expectations makes me skeptical at best.

Being a hopeless optimist is the only thing keeping me from screaming at the whole thing. The technology boom has definitely softened and the world will keep turning. Things may just slow down enough for us to inaugurate our new President Bush and learn a couple of new features on that software program we just got for Christmas. Good luck and Happy Holidays.

Greg Roberts has been the Webmaster of LiNE Zine since its inception in the Spring of 2000. He can be reached for comments and suggestions at Greg@linezine.com.


Microsoft Poised for a Fall After Profit Warning

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Shares of Microsoft Corp. (NasdaqNM:MSFT - news) were poised for a beating on Friday after the world's No. 1 software maker forecast that its quarterly earnings would fall short of Wall Street expectations for the first time in its history as a publicly traded company.

Microsoft last traded at $51-7/8 in pre-market Instinet trading, down from a close at $55-1/2 on Thursday. The shares reached as high as $119-15/16 in December 1999 and as low as $48-7/16 two months ago.

Late on Thursday, the maker of the Windows operating system said its second fiscal quarter earnings would be 46 to 47 cents a share, compared with the Wall Street consensus estimate of 49 cents as compiled by research firm First Call/Thomson Financial.

The company cited a slowdown in PC sales as a result of weaker corporate spending, weakness in online advertising and weaker subscription growth.

For the full year, it projected earnings of $1.80 to $1.82 a share, compared with a First Call estimate of $1.91.

``There's no way to really candy-coat this,'' said JP Morgan analyst William Epifanio. ``The weakness that we were seeing in the consumer PC business has spread into the corporate sector.''

He said the weakness could drag down the rest of the market, which has already suffered from a downturn in the technology sector. ``Microsoft has a way of sucking things down with it,'' Epifanio said.