The Palm Beach Post from West Palm Beach, Florida on March 30, 1998 · Page 60
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The Palm Beach Post from West Palm Beach, Florida · Page 60

West Palm Beach, Florida
Issue Date:
Monday, March 30, 1998
Page 60
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"8 THE PALM BEACH POST MARCH 30, 1998 Q SITES TO BEHOLD Technology stocks' smooth ascent is running into some bumpy air PALMnEAClICHTCREW ;T7: , . .... . fp Will consumers and businesses find the next wave of technology so compelling they will snap up new products at a rate that will keep the industry humming? PALM BEACH YACHT CREW It just never made sense to us: If Thurston Howell III was so wealthy, why did he need Skipper and Gilligan to take him on a three-hour cruise? Why didn't he just buy a yacht for Lovey and hire a more professional crew? For those financial titans who are wise enough to own their own yachts but need crew members, there's this site, which lists various job openings. There's a fee for applicants who want to be captains, mates, deckhands or cooks (as well as a fee for yacht owners who hire a crew member through the service), but it works as a shortcut to finding a job on the water. BENEFITS LINK When it comes to deciphering employee benefits, we wouldn't know COBRA from HIPAA. But for businesses that sponsor employee benefit plans and companies that provide products and services for plans, this site serves as a handy resource. There's benefits information, a database of related documents, links to other resources on the net, a list of jobs and a cache of benefits-oriented software that can be TELECOMMUTING JOBS By Elizabeth Corcoran The Washington Post SAN FRANCISCO Technology stocks have been a hardy breed. Shares of tech companies tend to get smacked harder on bad news than shares of firms in other sectors of the stock market. But then, usually within weeks, investors regain confidence and the stock prices pop back up. For at least the next several months, though, many technology companies might find the bounce back a little more difficult, analysts say. A confusing confluence of events has hit the tech world Asia's financial turmoil, which can cut orders from the Pacific Rim as well as spark more competition in the United States from low-cost imports; the "Year 2000" problem, which might cause some computers to crash after Dec. 31, 1999, and which might cost millions to fix, perhaps cutting into new purchases; and the growing popularity of the $1,000 personal computer, which eats into profit margins of industry powers such as Intel Corp. and Compaq Computer Corp. And then there's the Big Issue: Will consumers and businesses find the next wave of technology so compelling they will snap up new products at a rate that will keep the industry humming? "The growth rate in PC sales has been slowing down for some time. It peaked out near 30 percent at the end of 1995," said Fred Hickey, editor of High Tech Strategist, a monthly newsletter. The root cause of the slowdown, Hickey contends, is companies are saturated with computers and consumers are vexed by technology that is hard to use. "The industry has geared itself up for a growth rate that the world isn't ready for," said William Fleckenstein, who runs Fleckenstein Capital, and is betting that technology stocks will sink. Others say the industry, like an adolescent in a mature economy, is just experiencing growing pains. "It's amazing how short-term people's memories are," said Chip Vetter, a managing director at Robertson Stephens & Co. "It's been so good for so long, people tend to forget" the computer chip and PC industries have long been volatile, he said. But as the technology sector fias become such an important. corrected. Such repair spending might mean some companies will slow down buying newer software, said Bob Austrian, a managing director for NationsBanc Montgomery Securities in San Francisco. Then again, some companies might scrap older systems and re-equip, which could be a boon to computer makers. Consumers have been snapping up PCs priced near $1,000, instead of the once-standard $2,000 apiece. To make money on $1,000 PCs, chip makers such as Intel and PC makers are retooling: Intel is rolling out a line of lower-cost chips. All that change makes it confusing to project future sales growth. The $1,000 PC can be a boon for the big PC players such as Compaq, contended Kurtis King, a managing director at Nations-Banc Montgomery Securities, provided they become better at gauging what customers are buying. "Compaq's been at the bottom of the heap in reforming its distribution practices," King said. "This isn't a demand problem, it's a supply problem." Corporate computer buyers are also unhappy about how much technology costs not just the initial bill, but to keep their systems healthy. "This 'total cost of ownership' of computing is either getting out of hand or more of us are becoming aware of just how incredibly expensive it is to run in this networked world," said John See-ly Brown, a senior vice president at Xerox Corp. "These costs are eating us alive. I think it's going to slow down people's purchasing once they begin to realize the real costs" of running a sophisticated network of computers. And everyone, from consumers to executives, fumes about how hard it is to use computers. "Somehow the computer industry hasn't figured out that this is a consumer electronics device," said Craig Barrett, Intel's president "I think that's a major failing that the industry has." Even so, those building technology are confident the industry has much room to grow. "We're in a phase now that's similar to 19.H2 or 83." said Nathan Myhrvold, chief technologist for Microsoft Corp. "There are more opportunities looking ftr-ward than the industry has ever had." It sounds like a fantasy: rolling out of bed and starting work on the computer without having to change out of your PJs or leave the house. Well, when it gets down to it, telecommuting is still work. But there's no commute and the pay can be nice. So to find a job or to list a job for available telecommuters, there's this site. There's a chat area for telecommuters (shouldn't they be working?) a list of resource links and tips and an on-line bookstore for telecommuters. force in the economy and stock market, investors have tracked shifts with laser intensity. "The investment communities tend to amplify small fluctuations," said Richard Gilbert, an economist at the University of California at Berkeley. Lumping "high tech" companies can create a misleading picture. But the Asian turmoil has the potential to hurt many segments. If lost Asian business depresses the overall U.S. economy, it will affect capital spending. Better than 40 percent of U.S. capital spending is driven by the technology sector. If spending slumps, so will technology sales. "Asia is challenging for anyone," said John Chambers, chief executive of Cisco Systems Inc., a Silicon Valley maker of computer networking's infrastructure. A year ago, Asia accounted for 17 percent of Cisco's sales; that's dropped to 10 percent and could go lower, Chambers said. But the companies that have the most to lose in Asia are semiconductor makers and the firms that make tools for them. Some semiconductor equipment companies get 35 percent to 55 percent of their revenue from Asia, according to Goldman, Sachs & Co. By contrast, many software companies derive 5 percent to 10 percent of their revenues from Asia, Goldman said. Software companies are worrying more about the "millennium bug." Many companies, notably banks and insurance companies, rely on old software programs built to abbreviate references to calendar years by using the last two digits. When the calendar flips over on Jan. 1, 2000, those systems will not know how to make sense of "00." Aetna Insurance recently reported it plans to spend $100 million this year to try to fix the millennium bug and Citibank says it will have spent about $S(X) million by the time tvs problems are DR. DON'S TERMITE PAGE www. labyrinth, net.audewart One of the booby prizes of this year's El Nino is that along with inconveniences such as floods, tornadoes and mudslides, much of the country is also experiencing large termite infestations. Winter may be a drag, but it can usually be relied upon to keep the little critters at bay until late spring. Not this year. Time to consult Dr. Don's Termite Pages. Dr. Don Ewart is an Australian entomologist'from LaTrobe University School of Zoology in Melbourne. And while Australia a little far afield, termites know no boundaries. At the site, there's a primer recognizing the enemy. (Termites are actually more closely related to roaches than ants. How reassuring.) Next, there are pointers on how to detect termites, along with environmentally friendly alternatives to the toxic "spray and pray" strategy . . . although you may want to forgo keeping a family of geckos around the house. JEFF HOUCK, Technology calendar West Palm Beach Chamber of Commerce of the Palm Beaches presents "Internet 105," a review of Internet 101, 102, 103 and 104, Thursday, 5:30 p.m.. Chamber Boardroom, 401 N. Flagler Drive. $15 members; $30 nonmembers. For more information, call 833-.3711. Ext 227. .V, . .. , -.....

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