Undertakers and dealmakers had a heckuva year in 1998.
As the merger market shifted into hyperdrive, it seemed that a new deal was being announced or another company getting slammed every other week. And indeed, several significant companies disappeared from the scene. (A moment of silence, to pay homage to some of the more notable dearly departed of 1998.)
Digital Equipment Corp.
The year started off with a bang when Compaq Computer Corp. announced plans to buy Digital Equipment Corp. At first, critics wondered if Compaq had bit off more than it could chew by attempting to digest an industry titan like Digital, but the deal met with general approval. And the worst fears never materialized. In October, Compaq reported that the integration of Digital was on track and that the new subsidiary would contribute to earnings by the end of 1998.
Power Computing Corp.
Power Computing found the transition from its Macintosh business to the Wintel PC market an impossible challenge. In early January the clone maker decided to sell its remaining assets to Apple Computer Inc. Although industry observers mourned the loss, Apple clearly benefited from Power Computing's exit from the scene as one of its chief Macintosh rivals disappeared into the dustbin of history.
SyQuest Technology Inc.
A pioneer in removable storage devices, SyQuest took some heavy lumps in its fourth quarter. The company then announced in August it would cut its work force by half or about 950 jobs. It failed to stave off the wolves. SyQuest shuttered its doors and filed for bankruptcy protection on November 11.
Hayes Microcomputer Products, Inc.
It was only a matter of time before the modem maker raised the white flag. Hayes, which had already gone down this road before, announced losses and a restructuring in August. Reflecting a wider slump in the modem market, the company once again filed for bankruptcy in October.
The death of ISP @bigger.net in October raised the question: Can free-access ISPs survive? If @bigger.net is any indication, the answer is a resounding no. The company offered users unlimited, lifetime access to the Internet. In exchange, advertising windows remained on the desktop while users were online. Will other free-access ISPs share a similar fate? Few of them are making money -- and that is not a long-term strategy for remaining in business.
Honorable Mention: Zapata Corp.
Who the heck is Zapata? That's the question everyone was asking when Zapata Corp. suddenly showed up in April to snap up pioneer Web magazines Word and Charged. The company then announced plans to reorient itself as an Internet player and made a bid for Web portal Exite. This bold move had industry pundits' tongues wagging until the company abruptly did an about face and just as suddenly deserted the Net scene including the 31 companies it had made deals to acquire. Apparently, the Web wasn't ready for a 'lotta Zapata' after all ...