Tech Talk from Silicon Valley

By SmallBusinessComputing Staff | Posted July 01, 2001
by Mike Langberg

WANTED: Qualified IT Personnel
Hiring information-technology workers is still a struggle, despite the dot-com bust and the sluggish national economy. A survey by the Information Technology Association of America finds 900,000 new IT jobs will be created this year, down sharply from 1.6 million in 2000. But there will still be a shortfall of 425,000 skilled workers to fill those 900,000 jobs, the survey says, so almost half of the open positions will remain vacant. The single biggest IT job category is technical support, accounting for almost one-fourth of the openings. The biggest increase in demand -- and therefore the hardest jobs to fill -- are for managers who run company-wide networks.

Kings of the Stone Age
Tablet PCs are making a comeback. The long-dormant concept of pen-based computers tanked a decade ago, and took several highly touted Silicon Valley start-ups with it. Unlike laptop computers, tablet PCs can be wielded by workers who are standing or walking. This time around, Acer, Compaq, Microsoft, Sony, Toshiba, and Transmeta Corp. have partnered to revive the tablet PC concept. They hope wireless Internet access, faster processors, longer battery life, larger color screens, and handwriting-recognition software that actually works will help the clipboard-like portables succeed in the market. Look for the first tablet PCs next year, running the new Windows XP operating system, with exact specifications and prices to be announced.

A survey by the Information Technology Association of America finds 900,000 new IT jobs will be created this year, down sharply from 1.6 million in 2000.

A Personal and Private Matter
Web users have been calling for privacy protection for years, and industry giants are finally doing something about it. Microsoft is implementing a sweeping privacy policy for Web surfers with its Internet Explorer 6 browser, due before the end of the year. IE 6 will be the first browser supporting the Platform for Privacy Preferences, or P3P, a standard backed by the World Wide Web Consortium. Users of IE6 will be able to specify in advance whether they will accept "cookies" from Web sites seeking to track their activities. To avoid being blocked by IE 6, Web site operators will need to build a P3P-compliant privacy policy into their sites. America Online and Yahoo have already pledged to support P3P on their sites, although many other big online players have yet to take a stand. Also unclear is whether P3P's voluntary rollout will lessen pressure for federal legislation that would make privacy protection mandatory.

Keeping Up is Hard to Do
Chances are, you're just getting acquainted with the new features in Microsoft's last version of Office. If you're looking for even more new features which you may or may not end up using, look no further than Microsoft's latest Office update, Office XP, launched on May 31. Office XP -- which runs on older PCs and doesn't require the upcoming Windows XP operating system -- adds features that allow multiple users to work on a single document and groups to easily share their documents through a company Web site. Skeptics may question why anyone needs more bells and whistles in the Office suite of programs. Perhaps to combat such criticism, Microsoft is offering its first-ever "try before you buy" option. For $9.95, a "trial" CD-ROM will install the XP version of Word, Excel, Outlook, Access, and PowerPoint on your computer for 30 days of unlimited use. After the month is up, you can either revert to your older version of Office or purchase the full product.

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