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Caveat Emptor 2.0

Caveat Emptor 2.0

If you listen to vendors and the media, it may sometimes seem as though every new product, service, concept or even security threat will be the Next Big Thing. Savvy CIOs know when — and when not — to jump on the bandwagon

It all plays out with monotonous regularity: a new product, medium, business model or industry emerges and the clanking sound you hear is that of thousands of feet jumping one after another onto the same bandwagon. Then the failures begin (or not), the promises aren't kept (or not), cynicism sets in (or not) and the disillusioned leap from the bandwagon en masse, leaving the survivors to count their blessings or the costs.

Hype is, after all, the lifeblood of the technology business. An army of vendors and marketers stand ever ready to over-promise in the name of building mind-share, buy-in and investment to secure a healthy IT industry. Kill the hype and you could well kill the patient.

Frankston believes the best protection against hype is to always be wary and to have contingency plans in case any particular solution or magic fails

Today it's the Weblog, Second Life and wikis; just as in 1998 it was the dotcom bubble frenzy, when people happily forked out hundreds of thousands of dollars to consultants to build them a Web site and threw millions at dotcom companies only to watch them crash and burn. Long before that it was the fax newspaper, broadcast by dozens of US radio stations in the 1930s and 40s but now barely even a distant memory. And so it goes on.

Anyone needing a refresher course on how rarely the hype lives up to the reality need only read "Don't Believe the Hype: The 21 Biggest IT Flops", an article that appeared in Computerworld earlier this year. Writer David Haskin reminds us of famous failures like the Apple Newton, digital audio tape, e-books, IBM's PCjr, Internet currency, satellite phone pioneer Iridium, Microsoft Bob, the Net PC, push technology, smart appliances and that old master of the false promise, "the paperless office". (To see the complete list, see "David Haskin's 21 Biggest Technology Flops", at end of story)

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