Here's Looking at '98

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Here are my forecasts and views on developments affecting travel technology and the computer industry in 1998.

1. Windows 98 will be available early in the year and is probably worth installing because all the patches and updates to Windows 95 will be collected in one place. There are several minor tool improvements, but new automatic update features will drive some users to distraction.

2. My 1997 list said Microsoft has too much unhealthy dominance over small-computer software and technology. In October the Justice Department took action to force some reconsideration and a settlement respecting the Internet Explorer was reached. More competition in small-computer software is in the interests of the travel industry.

3. Windows NT and related networking products are basically tools enabling people to use ever-bigger PCs; Unix remains the platform of choice for commercial development.

4. Forget 58K modems. Most users will achieve results substantially less than 58K under real-world conditions. If more Internet through-put is a priority, ISDN circuits should be your next communications upgrade.

5. DVD (the replacement for CD-ROM) had a good year this Christmas, but there are competing (and incompatible) standards that have yet to sort themselves out. In other words, it is too soon to buy much DVD hardware.

6. Smart cards may make sense from a data and transaction security standpoint. Beyond that, the justification is far less clear. Don't waste time here.

7. The same Internet issues that were in place in 1997 remain for 1998: security, content, customers, technology and revenue. Internet hysteria will probably be rampant all year. Eventually the problems must be addressed if sustainable businesses are to emerge.

8. Don't count on widespread CRS alternatives this year. This is a longer-term trend that will focus on vendors, offering their own alternatives, not a new, neutral CRS. Some suppliers will continue disrupting the agency system through compensation adjustments (i.e., pay cuts and bonuses), product changes and preferred-supplier deals. Expect erratic behavior because few agents or vendors understand the implications of emerging technology or changing distribution priorities.

David Wardell is president of USMatrix, a technology firm in Washington. He can be reached at [email protected]

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