Guest column: New Year resolutions better made for others

I had a lot of trouble deciding on a topic for this column. I was tempted to write up my predictions for the new year. But I'm not quite ready. Besides, I already promised my editor I'd write on the topic of New Year's resolutions. The trouble is that I found it impossible to get motivated to write any resolutions. After all, I know I'll never keep them.

Call me weak-willed if you must, but I know I'm not alone -- the struggle is as old as humankind. The apostle Paul described the predicament 2,000 years ago, writing: "For that which I do I allow not; for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I ... For the good that I would I do not; but the evil which I would not, that I do." It's profound wisdom, but I'm not sure which is more difficult -- unraveling the logic or reading the passage aloud three times fast.

Anyway, after several moments of sincere meditation, I think I have arrived at an ideal compromise. Rather than make hasty predictions or face the guilt of breaking my own resolutions, I'll predict the New Year's resolutions that others will make. I'll even toss in a few guesses about how they'll break them.

First on my list is Oracle Chairman and CEO Larry Ellison. I predict Ellison will resolve to show more restraint in 1999 by promising not to redefine network computers more than three times during the year. I predict he will come close to meeting this goal. But he'll go overboard in other ways, such as exaggerating the lost benefits of dumb terminals, smart terminals, graphics terminals, and bus terminals.

Microsoft will resolve to abandon its search-and-destroy policy regarding alleged conspiracies to obliterate competition through predatory business practices. Believe it or not, this new policy will be championed by none other than Bill Gates. I predict he'll announce this news in a companywide e-mail that reads, "The days of search and destroy are over. Our new company policy confines predatory and anti-competitive strategic decision making to private conversations in one of the many new soundproof lounges, thus circumventing the need to later hunt down and erase incriminating mail messages."

Linux advocates will resolve to launch an e-mail campaign to communicate the message to the world that there really is a market for commercial applications on Linux. Unfortunately, the message won't make it out in 1999 because these particular Linux users are waiting for Qualcomm to ship a free (as in free beer, not free speech) version of Eudora for Linux.

Speaking of which, seven more personalities will appear on the free (as in free speech, not free beer) software scene, each one resolving to let the world know that open-source software was originally his or her idea.

IT executives will jot down a reminder in Outlook to leave voice mail for the office supplies purchasing assistant to check the Web for pricing on 3M Post-It software so they can remind themselves to fix the bugs in their videoconferencing software so they can have a virtual meeting to discuss ways in which the latest technology saves time and money.

IBM will resolve to make 1999 the year it figures out what Notes is good for.

Steve Jobs will resolve to issue several press releases and launch product initiatives designed to convince Apple shareholders that the company does not need Microsoft handouts in order to survive. Jobs will fail to make any announcements or initiate any new products, but through no fault of his own. Microsoft simply won't give him permission.

Novell will resolve to port a Java-based version of its Novell Directory Services to digital watches. It will fail to do so, but only because Sun Microsystems delays its release of a Java Virtual Machine for digital watches.

Microsoft will resolve to explain how Internet Explorer 5.0, which is bundled with Microsoft Office 2000 for Windows as a separate product, is somehow an inextricable part of the Windows operating system. Microsoft will also resolve to explain how up is down and why grown-ups would put on a dinosaur suit and act like Barney and Baby Bop.

Technology pundits finally resolve to make this year the year they won't declare OS/2 dead. In addition, they resolve to confess that they were wrong to declare OS/2 dead every year for the past decade, and apologise to their readers -- only to find out that nobody cares what happens to OS/2 anymore.

Former consultant and programmer, Nicholas Petreley is high resolution. Send your comments to nicholas_petreley@infoworld.com, and visit his forum at www.infoworld.com.

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