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Columnist takes a peek at the future


You would think that three years of watching the Internet would teach me to avoid trying making predictions for the coming year.

I'm not sure anyone could have predicted some of 1998's events related to the Internet and online industry. Some events -- like AOL's announced purchase of Netscape -- continue to spark debate while competitors scramble to find a competitive angle.

With tongue firmly in cheek, here's a few prognostications for the coming year:

Prediction for 1999:

AOL's purchase of Netscape will escape antitrust scrutiny. It won't get Microsoft off the hook with the Justice Department.

Microsoft will be forced to change its business practices due to pressure from the Justice Department. This will include restrictions against "bundling" software, and placing restrictions on computer makers that wish to place competitor's software on the systems they sell.

Computer analysts and the media will still be talking about the upcoming explosion of online commerce. It will grow, but at a slower rate.

y2k will become a larger issue. Investors who haven't paid much attention to it will start to look at the y2k progress of potential investing targets.

companies will become increasing leery of telling the truth about their y2k readiness

PC prices will continue to drop. Processors will continue to get faster (see column below).

Internet appliances, like a telephone, pager or cellphone that receives e-mail, will see real growth and wide deployment due their foolproof use.

INTEL-IGENT MOVE. Intel will be releasing a volley of new processor chips that'll up the power of new computers while giving more bang for the buck.

If you thought 350 and 400 MHz speeds were fast, you'll see speeds next year regularly surpassing 400 MHz for premium desktop and portable computers, with even some of the cheapest, low-end Intel processor chips offering speeds as high as 366 MHz.

For a "low-end" processor, that's still fast computing.

Many of the new Intel processor chips are aimed at the lower-cost desktop market, as well as the mini-notebook and laptop computers.

And if that's not fast enough, wait a few months.

Intel plans to release a 400-MHz version of the Celeron in March, reaching 433 MHz by later in the year.

A new processor, dubbed the Katmai, or nicknamed the "Pentium MMX II," is slated for release by April.

The Katmai will feature enhanced 3D and multimedia capability, and you'll see speeds of 450- to 500-MHz before the end of the year.

The moves are aimed at beating back the advances that Intel's competitor, AMD, has racked up in the past year.

AMD ADVANCING. Intel's main rival, AMD, hasn't been sleeping while Intel's researchers were hard at work.

AMD's latest entry into the computer processor field is the K6-3, which will be released on the market in a few weeks.

Results of some recents benchmark tests have been posted on a Web site called AnandTech.com, and if the results are accurate, the K6-3 will be a force to be reckoned with.

An engineering sample 450-MHz K6-3 chip outperformed the Intel 450-MHz Pentium II and a Celeron A running at the same speed.

In benchmark lab tests the new K6-3 was more than 10 percent faster, and always beat Intel's processors running at the same speed.

The peformance boost comes from additional cache memory that tacked directly to the processor chip.

The K6-3, like the Intel Katmai, is aimed at high-power business and 3D applications.

For more information, visit AnandTech's Web site -- which is run by 16-year-old computer wizard Anand Lal Shimpi -- at www.anandtech.com.

HOLIDAY TRACKERS. One of the handiest Web sites also was one of the busiest these past few weeks.

The United Parcel Service Web site (www.ups.com) offers online package tracking, and holiday shoppers -- and shippers -- broke records while accessing the site.

UPS logged more than one million tracking requests on its site this past Tuesday.

The company attributed the surge in demand to Web-based retailers using the Web to also track their outgoing packages.

So how successful has the service been since it went online in 1995?

The site logged 100,000 requests during the month of December 1995, and one million a month in December 1996.

The requests jumped to one million a week in 1997, and hit one million a day this year.

The company delivered more than 17 million packages on Tuesday, its highest daily volume for the year to date, according to the company.

NET WORTH. America Online, the nation's largest Internet provider and online service, was added recently to the Standard & Poor's 500 Index.

AOL replaced the old Woolworth's on the S&P Index.

AOL was the 52nd largest stock on the New York Stock Exchange as of the end of November. AOL's stock hit a new high the day the move was announced, peaking at $124.375.

Getting added to the S&P index confirms that a stock is in strong demand. Funds, which wish to mimic the investment performance of the index, must buy into the stock to match the index's overall return.

Comments and questions about this column may be sent to jbrooks@myoldkentuckyhome.com, or visit www.myoldkentuckyhome.com on the World Wide Web.

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