April 1998 may have been a symbolic month for the confidence of the technology boom. SHL Systemhouse willingly cut off some of its clients to focus on bigger fish, Be Inc. pushed an operating system designed to topple Microsoft and Canadians considered software theft to be a bit of a joke. Unfortunately,
everyone would be singing a different tune come the new millennium.
SHL cuts customers and staff
Spring 1998 marked the beginning of the end for Ottawa-based SHL Systemhouse Co., when it laid off 150 employees, most of whom worked for the company’s technical services division. This happened at a time when Canada was facing a much publicized IT skills shortage and when the company itself needed to fill 500 positions in other areas.
The layoffs signaled a shift away from the company’s smaller accounts so that it could focus more intently on its systems integration and outsourcing practices, a spokesperson said at the time. Almost exactly one year later, SHL Systemhouse was purchased by competitor EDS Corp.
Software piracy seen as trivial
A survey commissioned by by the Canadian Alliance Against Software Theft (CAAST) found that half of respondents believed that copying illegal software was not as bad as stealing candy or office supplies. The survey discovered that a large number of businesses are guilty of running pilfered applications. According to CAAST, most allegations of pirated software in the workplace stemmed from disgruntled former employees blowing the whistle.
Three years later, a 2001 CAAST survey concluded that Canadian vendors lost $289 million in business application retail sales due to software piracy.
Be was not to be
Be Inc. launched an operating system to compete with Windows and Macintosh, which were described at the time as getting pretty long in the tooth. BeOS was launched in 1998 as “”a synthesis of ’90s computer technology into a new operating system,”” and with the hopes that users would adopt it simply because it wasn’t from Microsoft.
The OS created some buzz with analysts and developers, but just couldn’t adequately compete with the industry’s giants. In 2002, Be launched an anti-comp