MILLENNIUM MOVERS. The new year has been a time for many to make new career moves. Topping the list, of course, was Bill Gates' decision to give his friend and colleague Steve Ballmer a chance to wear the captain's hat at Microsoft. No doubt Microsoft's recent legal troubles helped Gates make up his mind. Jonathan Bulkeley, head of barnesandnoble.com, also left his job in January - and, like Gates, he has been under a good deal of pressure lately. The online arm of bookseller Barnes & Noble has managed rapid sales growth, but its stock market growth has been stunted from living in the constant shadow of Amazon.com. Another departure was John Milana, chief financial officer of SAP America, the US arm of the German software company. And again, it wasn't hard to see why Milana might want a career shift. SAP has suffered from the downturn in the market for ERP software and has been plagued by doubts about its ability to adapt to the growing demand for internet-based software. Milana is only the latest in a long string of senior SAP America employees to walk.
DESPITE THE CONSTANT WARNINGS about bubbles and busts, IPO fever looks set to carry on through 2000, setting more records. But the focus is shifting.
Last year the spotlight was on network equipment companies and suppliers of the Linux operating system - the current record for the highest ever first-day gain is held by VA Linux, which achieved a near 800% rise on its first day trading in December. But that record is likely to be beaten by the new wave of business-to-business e-commerce firms lining up to list their shares. The business-to-business trillion-dollar market opportunity hype is already at full blast.
THERE IS A LOT OF MONEY riding on the huge potential for entertainment delivered over high-speed internet connections. The idea is at the heart of the dollars 350 billion merger of AOL and Time Warner. But with only about two million homes in the US plugged into broadband connections, the market looks a little immature. To get a better idea of the potential for broadband, look to US universities. Analysts estimate that about seven million students in university accommodation now have high-speed connections capable of delivering films, games and music to their computers in seconds.
Colleges originally introduced high-speed connections in the belief that the net would provide a useful learning tool, but now find that they have instead given a huge boost to the online student entertainment business.
All colleges now find they need to offer fast internet connections or risk losing students.