The tremendous changes we have seen in the world of telecoms over the last few years of the 20th century are set to continue. The two biggest 'telecoms events' of the last decade, the internet and mobility, will dominate the change.
Continued liberalisation, technological development and globalisation will fuel new opportunities for those who can seize them. The largest incumbent PTTs which pursued timid cross-holdings and loose alliances have been overtaken by companies that barely existed a decade ago, such as MCI WorldCom, Vodafone AirTouch and AOL.
Billion-dollar start-ups and record mergers focused on the rapid exploitation of new opportunities will guarantee further disruption to the telecoms world order - to the benefit of business and consumers alike.
The V&A Museum
Museums are already in a new age, an era of new possibilities. Technology, learning patterns and relationships with business are evolving more rapidly than ever. Technology is transforming the way people use museums and our concepts of what a museum might be. Interactive web sites are bringing collections and knowledge to new audiences worldwide. With virtual technology enabling people to learn in new ways, our challenge is to ensure that the real visit continues to provide a unique value.
Dynamic relationships are developing between business and the arts as more businesses see the benefits of museum sponsorship. New 'equal partnerships' are characterised by a sharing of capabilities, as in the digital photography courses we have run this year in partnership with our sponsor, Canon. The opportunities are enormous. The winners will be those who move fast and creatively enough.
Last year's financial crisis appears to be well and truly past. Next year, UK growth may pick up to perhaps 3%. Even so, inflation looks set to stay ultra-low. Britain even seems to be managing to live with a strong pound. In my view, the big risk is a major shake-out on Wall Street and the adverse effects that would have on the US economy. One consequence might be a collapse of belief in the so-called 'new paradigm'. In fact, with e-commerce really starting to pick up and computers finally making a real difference to business life, the idea of a radical transformation may be discarded at just the time that it starts to be true.
I would like to describe a new landscape: the reality of world-class retailing - the reality of rapid consolidation, the reality of increasing globalisation and the fast-increasing development of new shopping channels to meet consumer needs. The next few years will see the emergence of truly global retailers who are able to use their scale to powerful competitive advantage and to the ultimate benefit of consumers, worldwide. But what does it take to be a truly world-class retailer? The fastest-growing have formats that accommodate national and local cultural differences. They source products on a global scale and this, coupled with the sophistication of their sourcing and distribution networks, gives them huge buying power and the ability to deliver the lowest possible prices to customers.
The aim should be to create a competitive environment that gives customers the best shopping experience. This way, retailers in Britain will also have a better chance of taking on the best in the world and winning. Encouraging world-class retailing and an environment for international expansion is the best way to achieve world-class shopping and benefits to UK plc, consumers and employees alike. And that is something we should all get behind.
The evolution of the internet in Europe is an interesting phenomenon when compared with the way things developed in the United States. Web penetration is gathering momentum, according to the experts, and it is predicted that there will be 168.5 million web users in Western Europe in 2003. Growth in Europe has been dramatic as we have the benefit of hindsight, learning from the mistakes made in the US.
One of the trends I believe is vital for the future growth of the internet in Europe is offering localised service. The internet by nature is a global medium, but unless a company can offer a service relevant to its local market, it will miss out on vital opportunities. For example, QXL.com has local offices and web sites in Germany, France, Italy and Holland, with more to come. Integrated consumer-to-consumer and business-to-consumer offerings, and localised web sites such as these throughout Europe, are needed to take advantage of the growth opportunities.
HMV Media Group
The issues that Waterstone's, HMV and Daisy & Tom face for the future have one thread in common - keeping sensible pace with whatever revolutions new technology, and the internet in particular, may prove to bring to our markets. We still don't know. Nor does anyone else. The case for internet mail-order bookselling looks formidable but everyone's losses in it look like a bottomless pit. Will they always be so? Will digital downloading really threaten the CD? How can we protect our bricks-and-mortar cash-flows? These are the questions. We'll need to be very smart to ensure that we provide the right answers.