Every now and then a seminal event comes along that changes the nature of the IT world in which we live. What's important to note about the forthcoming acquisition of Netscape Communications by America Online and the pending alliance with Sun Microsystems is the economic factors that are driving this deal.
During the course of the next two years, every single business process of any size is going to be forever altered by the continued sophistication of Internet technologies. And the only companies that are truly going to have the resources to deliver tightly integrated solutions capable of fulfilling the real promise of these technologies are multibillion-dollar global enterprises.
Their own visions
AOL, in conjunction with Sun, is positioning itself to be one of those enterprises. But at the same time, IBM, EDS, Microsoft, Pricewater-houseCoopers, and a host of smaller players all have their own visions for the newly emerging digital economy.
The problem is that each of these entities wants you to align the fortunes of customers to its sphere of influence in this new world. But if the Netscape acquisition proves anything, none of the players pushing electronic-commerce solutions is offering a stable environment.
For example, every IT organisation that invested in either Netscape or Sun is now left wondering about the long-term viability of its investment.
Is the Netscape suite of server software going to win out over Sun's existing offerings, or vice versa?
What will be the IT headaches associated with partnering with Sun as Sun struggles to integrate technologies from both companies?
The answers to those questions won't play out for another year.
In the meantime, demands from chief executives for ever more elaborate Internet solutions that help actually lower the cost of doing business will dramatically increase.
The real question is, is there any way for IT to hedge its bets in the new digital economy, or will our best-laid plans always be held captive by the whims of financiers and venture capitalists maximising shareholder value?