&
CNet News Briefs
Saturday, December 27, 1997

Top five high-tech stories of '97

by Sam Ladner, sam@mhpublishing.com

Corel's fall from grace

Once touted as the Great White North's answer to Microsoft, Corel Corporation had a decidedly rocky year.

Corel's financial roller coaster began early in the year with a poor second-quarter report. The numbers prompted many investors to bail out, sending the stock price into an unprecedented nosedive. The stock closed at a mere $2.55 Monday, down from about $10 at the beginning of the year.

More bad news arrived in June when the Ottawa-based company announced it would postpone the release of its much-awaited Office for Java. Analysts attributed the delay to the slow pace of Java's development.

Then in August, Corel CEO Michael Cowpland faced a world-class public relations headache when press reports suggested Corel was abandoning Java altogether.

Cowpland was quick to deny the reports but rumors about the flip-flop forced the stock on a downward trend from which it has yet to recover.

In a November interview with CNET Briefs Canada, Cowpland demonstrated his signature optimism. "It's been a turbulent last few months, but we've been going full steam ahead. And it's going to get fun again", he said.

Fantastic Flame-outs

Two Canadian high-tech companies had some very public financial problems in 1997: Gandalf Technologies and Fulcrum Technologies.

Canadians were treated to almost daily reports of Gandalf's demise in the summer of 1997. Reports of the Kanata, Ont.-based company's insolvency sparked a sell-off of its stock in late July.

Mitel Corporation, also based in Kanata, came to the rescue by purchasing all of Gandalf's technology. Gandalf is now a subsidiary of Mitel with only a fraction of its former staff.

A similar fate befell Fulcrum Technologies. Despite much critical acclaim for its data mining software, the Ottawa-based company bled red ink throughout 1997.

A savior came in the form of PC Docs, a Toronto-based software company. PC Docs bought Fulcrum outright just days before the company's Royal Bank credit was due to run out.

ISP shake-up

The Canadian Internet access market became a smaller game with bigger players in 1997. Amalgamation appeared to be the name of the Canadian Internet game in 1997.

PSINet Canada offered to buy iStar Internet in November. When the deal closes next month, the new company will be Canada's largest ISP with 70,000 subscribers.

In a move that surprised few industry analysts, beleaguered ISP HookUp communications filed for protection from its creditors in November.

The ISP expanded rapidly in the early months of 1997, snapping up 17 regional ISPs in an effort to be a national player.

Smaller ISPs still had an impact on the Canadian Web scene. A study released in August revealed that 73 per cent of all Canadian ISPs employed fewer than 10 people.

But the times they are a-changing, according to one industry analyst. "The days of a couple of guys in their basements are over", Jim Carroll said when the study was released.

Year 2000 Bug

While some in the high-tech industry may be suffering from Y2K saturation, there are others who say the computer millenium bug hasn't gotten enough attention.

The changeover from two-digit to four-digit dates is problematic enough for the auditor general to call the situation a "crisis" in his annual report.

Not only is the government struggling to deal with the problem, but only 10 per cent of businesses say they have any formal plans for the changeover.

Statistics Canada reported in December that Canadian businesses are dragging their feet over Y2K, mostly because they think they still have enough time to deal with it. Only 732 coding days left -- and counting.

Bandwith

The three most important things in cyberspace: bandwidth, bandwidth, bandwidth.

Canadians crying for ever-faster Internet access got a little welcome relief from the country's telephone companies in 1997.

Urban Canadians from St. John's to Vancouver now have access to asynchronous digital subscriber lines. ADSL delivers data at a blistering 1.5 megabytes per second.

Netizens can also opt for Wave -- the high-speed cable access service offered by Rogers Cable and Shaw Cable. Time Warner has even gotten into the game, launching its Road Runner service in Newfoundland in November.

Canada's academic community rejoiced at the launch of CA*Net II in June. The next generation network allows scientists to work with colleagues across North America in real time, thanks to videoconferencing.

But it was Brampton, Ont.-based Northern Telecom that promised to ease the World Wide Wait for many Canadian surfers. Nortel announced its one-meg telephone modem in November. The announcement led one telecom analyst to come close to squealing with delight.

"I'm getting my modem as soon as it comes out on the market", declared Dan Taylor of the Boston-based Aberdeen Group.


Copyright © 1997 by Rogers Multi-Media and CNET, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission.