Reflections on the year

Writing a column is a little like fishing. You pick a place to fish and then wonder if there is going to be any action once you drop your line.

Writing a column is a little like fishing. You pick a place to fish and then wonder if there is going to be any action once you drop your line. In the course of this year, there have been a few topics that caused a frenzy of responses, some vituperative, some supportive. Here's a look at the columns that spawned the most feedback and an update to each.

"To continue its comeback, Apple must succeed with IT." Any column on Apple, especially if it is deemed insufficiently flattering to the Mac, generates mail. This column (Oct. 12) did that in spades. First, I goofed badly by talking about a BIOS in the Mac environment. It should have been "system folder," and at least 100 of you called me on it. Apple is still on track and, amazingly, among the largest companies (500-plus employees). It looks like the Mac is no longer something to be shunned. What I'm finding is that individuals who demand Macs are no longer forced to settle for Wintel machines. Still, that's a long way from success, and it may be time for Apple's management to very publicly offer the olive branch to the IT professionals, which could really fuel Apple's return to corporate computing.

"It's time to inspire confidence in computing." As a columnist, there are times when you are truly surprised by the mail you get. This column (Nov. 23) was intended to convey the message that there is a rational middle ground between the hysterics around key problems in IT (Y2K and Web security) and putting your head in the ground and pretending that the problem doesn't exist. I used Y2K as the poster child. I was a bit shocked by the number of IT professionals who said they are going to the desert with a two months' supply of food and water, $2,000 in cash, a generator, and a gun. Wow! I don't buy the Y2K "destruction of civilization" cry. What I do buy is some real aggravation and more than a bit of inconvenience--reserve January for "scrambling around."

"Information appliances: a problem in the making for IT." In this column (June 22), I discussed the notion that non-Wintel PC platforms such as the PalmPilot would soon be a regular feature in IT environments, and thus IT professionals should be prepared. Responses came in two flavors. One set congratulated me on finally figuring out something that they'd already known. The other set said that I'd lost my mind and that these devices would be connected to the network over their dead bodies. Since that time, we now have versions of the PalmPilot that will be network-ready, and Microsoft is in a heavy push to make Windows CE a key platform for a new set of devices. Perhaps the most compelling applications are in industrial environments, where IP communications and new, specific hardware devices (such as those found in factories for data entry and inventory data collection terminals) are coming online very quickly. This tidal wave is closer to the beach than even I'd imagined six months ago.

So, there you have the feedback and the current state of some of the columns that inspired (or angered) you. For those of you who wrote, you have my thanks, even if we don't agree. After all, the most important job of a columnist is to inspire thought.

Aaron Goldberg is executive vice president of ZD Market Intelligence.