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Q3, and the brakes are still on

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DQW Bureau
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Even through the slowdown, which optimists have been seeing the bottom of for months now, there have been launches, events and exhibitions. Some are muted, and participation's down. But events have taken on a sense of urgency and purpose, and they're often linked to revenues coming in. Or they're launches and promos that can't be deferred.

Intel's big focus is the Itanium, its ticket to the high-value server segment, where it does not have a presence today. Intel's developer forums worldwide included the first one in India in October in Bangalore, with 700 participants. HP too had media events and a developer meet on the Itanium. Of course, for HP and Compaq, the biggest deal was their merger announcement, though it's business as usual for now.

Microsoft launched Windows XP without much fanfare in India. Vendors hope that XP's hype and promise will push PC sales. Users are happy that XP is "much faster and 13 times more stable", though they ask why it should take well over a decade to bring stability to Windows. "So how about getting our money back for all the stress caused by the crashing Windows?" a CIO asked me.

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Just before that, AMD launched its Athlon XP chip and its 'true performance initiative', to shift focus from clock speeds. Good idea. Trouble is, each chip vendor, including AMD, has used GHz figures when convenient, depending on who was ahead in the clock race. And its chances of success are slim, coming from an interested party that's not Intel.

With all these system and OS launches, vendors have been desperately hoping that things will pick up. They haven't yet. It's looking like we could even see zero growth in the PC numbers. That's better than the global decline, but a shock for India, used to 50% growth figures.

It's a pity vendors can't come together for a big joint marketing push for IT usage. The key today is to help the market grow again. A decline to zero growth in a country with so little PC penetration is not a good thing.

The joker in the pack is the government. Not just for the usual JFM (Q4 quarter) pick-up, just before funds lapse. The Union budget had outlined a lot of IT spending by March 2002, in ministries and departments, and on e-gov projects. Then came Tehelka, and a near-freeze. If that gloom lifts, that's probably the big hope for positive domestic IT growth this year.

That's if the slowdown sentiment doesn't overwhelm even the government. I read this somewhere: "To save some power, the light at the end of the tunnel is being turned off for now." It sounded funny at the time.

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