Archive: September 1998 — Last drops of JavaJolt

Back in 1998, PC manufacturers were dropping computer prices below the $1,000 mark, but customers weren’t necessarily chomping at the bit to buy them.

Even Dell Computer Corp. CEO Michael Dell dismissed

the pricing issue as “”really an inventory phenomenon.”” The issue for customers wasn’t so much about saving a few bucks up front, but what a cheaper PC was going to cost them in the long run.

“”Price sensitivity in the corporate market is a different issue relative to the consumer market,”” said Dave Armitage, an analyst with Evans Research Corp, who pointed out that initial purchase price isn’t necessarily the largest investment you’ll make in a PC over the span of its life.

“”If I can save you 50 per cent of a small percentage, meanwhile the rest of your costs are going up, are you saving anything?”” said IBM Canada sales manager Noel Patterson.

Meanwhile, in 2003, companies are still trying to get mileage from the computers they bought in the late 90s. PC refresh rates are now on the order of four to five years — it used to be more like two or three. Compugen president Harry Zarek recently pegged the last upgrade wave as 1999 — the last point at which customers could update technology and still reasonably expect to be prepared for Y2K.

It’s a hit! The number of people online in North America jumped 36 per cent between September 1997 and June 1998. Fully 79 million people were on the information superhighway, according to a study issued by CommerceNet and Nielsen Media Research.

More than 50 per cent of people 16 to 34 were online — roughly 40 million people. Those 50 and older comprised 17 per cent of the total surfing population.

Dot-coms and Internet vendors were feeling their oats and counting their dollars. The number of online shoppers doubled to 20 million over a nine-month period. “”What we’re seeing is the impact of branding, word-of-mouth and consumer trust,”” said Loel McPhee, director of research at CommerceNet.

The number of Internet users continued to climb through the late 90s and into the new millennium, but not all of them were forking over cash online. By the end of 2000, the boom was over and dozens of companies that made their living by selling goods and services online closed their doors.

At Sun Microsystems’ third annual JavaJolt conference, Canadian customers met to discuss how they’re putting products to the test.

The University of Western Ontario had bought 250 of Sun’s network computers for its renovated D.B Wheldon library — at the time it was the biggest JavaStation implementation in Canada. The “”library of the future”” cost the university $300,000, which quite a bargain according to its CIO Michael Bauer. It was easy to maintain, he said, requiring only two IT staff, and popular amongst students who were raring to get their hands on new technology.

Network computing (also known as thin clients or dumb terminals) was already beginning to cool in 1998 and JavaJolt is no more, but Sun is currently enjoying some success in the education market with portal technology. Earlier this year, the government of Manitoba began moving the province’s K-12 students to a common Internet platform using SunOne portal technology. The project was deemed by organizers as to a way to provide a safe environment for students to use the Internet and a way to teach them about the Internet itself.

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