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Commentary for: 5 January 1997

My Score for 1997
award logo Before I leap into this year's predictions, maybe I should reflect on those I made last year:

1. This will NOT be the Year of the Network Computer (1997)
Well I think I got that one right. Despite some heavy promotion and wild claims from the likes of Larry Ellison of Oracle and Sun Microsystems, 12 months later, the Network Computer is still very much a non event.

2. Advertisers will ask "where's the return?" (1997)
I think it's fair to say I got this wrong. It seems that ad revenues on the Web have continued to grow and many advertisers are still willing to "take a punt" on seeing some return, happy to write off any failures to experience.

3. This will NOT be the year of WebTV (1997)
I got this one right - but only just. In the USA there has been a significant rise in sales right at the end of last year, probably due to the original WebTV appliance being discounted to under US$100. At that price, who wouldn't buy one?

4. Apple will be split up and sold off (1997)
Well I was pretty close on this one. Apple's financial woes did continue and as I predicted, Microsoft did buy a fair-sized chunk of Apple stock. I think I deserve at least half a point for this one since nobody else was predicting this.

5. Microsoft will strengthen their Net position (1997)
Full marks for this one. While some were saying that Microsoft didn't have a chance on the Net after their seemingly never-ending series of about-faces and slip-ups, I was pretty sure that their huge financial resources, marketing and tenacity would see them gain a good solid foothold in the Net industry - at any price.

6. Look for an increase in "user-pays" sites (1997)
Well I got this one wrong. I had thought that the industry would mature a little faster than it has. It appears that I was about six months out on this. Look for this prediction to come true around mid '98.

So, 3.5 out of 6 - not too bad for an industry as fast-moving and unpredictable as the Internet. Interesting to note that where my predictions failed me it was mainly because I expected the industry to move more quickly than it has. I had expected the "honeymoon" period that the Net has enjoyed to have burst by now and for commercial reality to raise its head - but obviously it didn't.

Aardvark's Predictions for 1998
Well of course I could always play it safe as many of my peers do and suggest that "the Net will continue to grow", "Email will overtake Fax", etc, etc - but I don't think you've come here to read predictions of "the bleeding obvious" so again, I'll stick my neck out and try to be bold.

So bold!



Microsoft will launch a clean-room Java
To resolve the battle Microsoft is currently waging with Sun over the Java language, Microsoft will release a "clean-room" version of the Java language. By producing a version that contains absolutely none of the code originally provided by Sun as part of the Java license, MS will no longer be obliged to pay license fees or royalties to Sun and Sun will not be able to enforce the license conditions currently the subject of court action. This will be the next step in Microsoft's attempts to defuse the threat that Java presents to their own empire.

Netscape stock will crash
It gives me no pleasure to predict this but I believe that during mid-late 98, the value of Netscape stock will decline significantly in the face of Microsoft's growing share of the browser and server markets. With no "magic bullet" up its sleeves Netscape will become be to Internet what Novell became to LANs - a former industry leader frantically looking for a new product to rescue them from rapidly shrinking market share and revenues. Investors will start to divest themselves of the stock and prices will plummet.





Dial-up will stick at 56Kbps
Don't expect anything better than 56Kbps dial-up speeds for 98. DSL technologies promise to provide more speed but they won't be widely available this year. The vast majority of users will still be using 56K modems at the end of 98.

E-Commerce comes of age
1998 will be the year in which buying products over the Net finally becomes a regular activity for many Net users. Low-cost technology solutions (possibly hardware) will largely overcome the security problems and many big-name retailers will establish a Net presence or enhance existing ones. Look also for a significant change in the way products are sold over the Net. Instead of just buying products from a shopping site we'll be able to buy direct from banner-ads throughout the Web with sites being paid a commission on such sales.





A year of consolidation and acquisition
There will be a surprising number of buy-outs and amalgamations on the Net. Look for many of the Net success stories to be purchased by the big names. They're already finding out that it's much easier to buy something that works than it is to go through the risky and expensive process of trying to come up with new ideas and turn them into a commercial reality. Look for mainstream publishers and broadcasters to go out on buying sprees in search of "hot" Net properties.

A curb on junk mail
In the face of huge pressure from the Net-public, the US government will finally be forced to pass controls on the use of unsolicited commercial Internet email (junk mail). The moves will probably not mean a total ban, but will force the direct-marketers to regulate their activities and behave in a more considerate manner.



That's it!

What do you think?
So, there you have it, those are my bold predictions for 1998. I hope I score as well with these as I did with last year's ones. I invite everyone to voice their opinions and perhaps even venture their own predictions in the Aardvark Forums.

By the way, don't forget to enter the Aardvark "Win a Home on the Net" competition. The winner will get everything they need to build their very own personal or commercial Web site on the Net including a year's free hosting with TierraNet and a copy of FrontPage from Microsoft NZ.

Finally, I've published a full list of all the nominations that were submitted in the 1997 Aardvark Net Awards in response to popular demand.

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The I.C.B.I.T Award
I Can't Believe It's True!

Buying a good 3rd-level domain name and then selling subdomains is a great idea - hell, I should know - I scooped pages.co.nz and have created a raft of subdomains such as political.pages.co.nz, yellow.pages.co.nz, web.pages.co.nz and the like. The key to success however is choosing a good 3rd level name.

I can't believe that these people really think they're going to make money selling subdomains from:

this 3rd level domain

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