10 surprising things from my 20 years with Network World

As I write this column I'm six days past the 20th anniversary of writing for Network World! The very first thing I ever penned for NW was about NetWare 4.0 in the May 24, 1993 issue, and the first Backspin column was on Feb. 2, 1996, oddly enough, also about Novell.

My esteemed editor suggested I review what's happened over my years with NW but was adamant that I couldn't title the column "20 &%$#%@*& Years." So, bending to my editor's will, I thought about what's changed over that time and there are 10 things that stand out. All of them were surprising ...

#10: The demise of Novell, Banyan, 3Com, DEC, Compaq, Polaroid, Palm, Nortel, Silicon Graphics ... it's a long list. While some of those companies simply died or were swallowed up by bigger fish, others have and continue to just slowly wither (I'm looking at you, Novell). What's interesting is how much dumb luck plays a major role in determining success.

#9: The rise of the Internet, which changed the world. The sad thing is that the U.S., the country that created the Internet, still doesn't completely understand the Internet's importance, which is why we're ranked 9th or 16th - depending on how you measure these things - worldwide in terms of broadband availability, price and speed.

#8: The rise of ecommerce. Ecommerce, the selling and buying of goods and services online, has changed how we do business. When I wrote "Navigating the Internet" back in 1993, the idea that the Internet would become a commerce platform was unthinkable. Now we're arguing about how to collect taxes on online purchases.

#7: The re-rise of Apple. Perhaps one of the more surprising stories in the last 20 years has been the phoenix-like success of Apple. The big question is whether Apple can still be Apple without Jobs ... we'll know in the next 20 years.

#6: The consumerization of IT. A few years ago the consumer IT equipment market started eating away at the fringes of the enterprise where it was easier and cheaper for branch offices and telecommuters to deploy low end routers and NAS devices purchased at Fry's than go through the cost and complexity of using Big Boy IT gear. This accelerated as corporate users began increasingly brining their own laptops and cellphones into the enterprise. Is this creating a huge management mess for IT, or is it a huge cost savings? Whichever it is, it's not going away.

#5: The end of privacy and security. Along with all the good stuff that the Internet has made possible there's the bad stuff. The 'Net, the operating systems we use, and the services we rely upon all ensure you're trackable and hackable. It's a matter of when, not if.

#4: The rise of Linux and open source. Who could have predicted 20 years ago that Linux and the open source movement would become such powerful market forces?

#3: The rise of social media. Facebook and Twitter and the rest. Need I say more? Whether social media as we know it today will survive the next 20 years is debatable.

#2: The rise of Google. Google, one of the few companies to ever become a verb, was founded in 1998 and it's growth and the sheer exuberance of it's research and development has been truly astounding.And finally ...

#1: The death of the PC. Who knew that the PC would so quickly wane in importance to become just one of the end user computing platforms? According to IDC, 2013 will see PC shipments drop by almost 8%!

It's been a fascinating 20 years writing for Network World so far. It's been exciting and, at times, exhausting ... I just hope there's another 20 years of writing left in me.

Gibbs was looking backwards from Ventura, Calif. Your view to and follow him on Twitter and (@quistuipater) and on Facebook (quistuipater).

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