In this final edition of Research UPDATE in its present format, we look at Desktop OLAP, the PC slowdown, managers' focus on installing Windows 2000, business-to-consumer commerce, and the Sircam worm.

Research Focus: Desktop OLAP: Still Experimental
Creating a culture of analysis has proven difficult for many companies. Although IT shops for a decade have been building data warehouses to serve as the basis for business intelligence (BI), the payoff for these projects has been elusive. According to many analysts, during the early 1990s, BI technology was too immature for many companies to implement successfully on a large scale. Now that BI technology has matured, the challenge is to convince line-of-business managers to embrace analytical tools.

Desktop online analytical processing (DOLAP) tools are one answer to the business analysis problem. DOLAP refers to low-priced, simple OLAP tools that perform local multidimensional analysis and present data downloaded to client machines from relational or multidimensional databases. By using DOLAP tools, companies intend to spread BI application use beyond power users and foster a corporate-wide culture of analysis.

An exclusive analysis of data provided by Survey.com shows that DOLAP rollouts remain modest in most organizations. As Graph 1 reveals, most companies are still just experimenting with DOLAP. More than half the companies responding have 50 DOLAP seats or fewer. Clearly, the application isn't yet pervasive in many organizations.

As Graph 2 shows, cost is the primary obstacle to widespread deployment of DOLAP. But price isn't the only concern. Managers are also worried that DOLAP tools are still too complex for nonexperts to use effectively. And the administrative burden of installing yet another client-server application deters some IT shops from investing more heavily in DOLAP.

The emergence of Web-based tools could help DOLAP overcome many of the obstacles it now faces to wide-scale corporate adoption. Web-based DOLAP implementations might be less costly and less administratively complex, and the tools themselves might be easier to use. But the use of DOLAP tools will be determined as much by a shift in corporate culture as by improvements in technology.

Research Review

The PC Slowdown
During the second quarter of this year, the number of PCs shipped declined for the first time, according to market research company International Data Corporation (IDC), which reported that worldwide shipments of PCs dropped 2 percent year-over-year and 7.2 percent sequentially in the second quarter, led by an 8.1 percent year-over-year fall in the United States. Sales in Japan, after growing 30 percent last year, were flat. Other Asian markets slowed appreciably, as did sales in Europe.

As Table 1 shows, Dell has built market share worldwide during the slowdown. The company emerged as the only major vendor to show a year-over-year increase in units shipped.

The PC market now faces three interlocking problems. First, in the United States and other regions, the market for the current state of technology might be saturated. PCs might already be on the desktops of everyone who needs one. Second, because of the rapid introduction of exciting new technology, many organizations upgraded desktops every 2 to 3 years throughout the 1990s. The upgrade schedule—along with the rate of innovation at the desktop—is slowing in many corporations. Third, corporate IT's focus historically swings from centralized computing to decentralized technology. Companies' attention is now on centralized enterprise applications.

Dell no doubt hopes that a new wave of innovation will help the PC maintain its central role in IT in the years to come. If the company is lucky, it could emerge as the most influential player in the coming epoch.

Win2K Commands IT Managers' Attention
The Windows 2000 rollout continues to dominate IT managers' attention, according to a recent study by Windows 2000 Magazine. In the magazine's quarterly reader survey, Win2K Server continued to top the list of topics in which readers were interested, followed by Win2K Pro and Active Directory (AD). These rankings are unchanged from the previous survey.

The Win2K rollout isn't complete and is only the first step in the process. After organizations have installed Win2K, they still must tune and support the new OS. These results make clear, however, that Win2K has emerged as the everyday OS in many enterprises.

The Coming Test for B2C
According to Nielsen/NetRatings and Harris Interactive, business-to-consumer (B2C) commerce has hit the mainstream. Of adult Americans over the age of 18, 48.2 percent have purchased something online. Of adults with Web access, 81.2 percent have made online purchases. The holiday season will once again test online retailing and show how it stacks up against more established retail channels.

Pop Survey Results: Sircam Worm Takes Toll
We asked you how the Sircam worm has affected your organization. Graph 3 shows the results. Although the worm didn't cause a lot of network damage, it was widespread and demanded attention that could have been directed elsewhere. Several respondents were dismayed that their antivirus software and firewalls didn't do a better job inoculating users from the threat.