2002 - THE YEAR
OF THE COMPUTER GADGET
Copyright 2002 www.thisislondon.com
[ January 7th 2002 ]
is betting £180bn that 2002 will be the Year of
the Gadget. That is the amount of shareholders'
money at risk in technology companies for whom
the next 12 months may be make or break. Their
shares are largely held aloft by hopes that consumers
will splash out on new gizmos and machines.
giants have bet their masts on strong demand for
'next generation' services. Handsets, starting
at £100, are just hitting the shops. They run
on a much faster network than ordinary mobiles,
and let you download music, surf the web, send
picture postcards, gamble online, check traffic
conditions or play chess against someone in Hong
Kong while sitting on a bus.
new technology flops, this will be ominous for
the long-awaited subsequent wave - 3G. Vodafone,
Orange and mmO2, worth £159bn between them, are
dependent on next generation services. They are
not the only ones. Filtronic (valued at £260m)
makes technology for the handsets and broadcast
aerials. Emblaze (£270m) writes software to download
data over mobile links. Psion (£355m) is praying
that consumers will access the new services using
devices that run on its Symbian software.
once-thriving computer games industry is battling
out of its two-year slump. The launch here in
March of Microsoft's Xbox console may prove critical
to the momentum that began with last year's launch
of Sony's PlayStation 2, and companies such as
Rage Software and Eidos are launching a host of
new titles. Retailers such as Carphone Warehouse
(£1bn), Dixons (£4.6bn) and games and software
specialist Electronics Boutique (£470m) are relying
on gadget demand to boost sales.
year may also prove decisive for the remaining
dotcoms. Last year, online travel companies (including
Britain's eBookers) began moving into profit,
and lastminute.com promises to do so this year.
But the wider viability of the internet business
model may depend on online retailer Amazon breaking
into profit this year. If it fails, the internet
may remain a minor business niche and the cash
will dry up for further ventures. If it succeeds,
dotcom mania could return.