2001 may well be the year of the IT revolution, but as far as I'm concerned, we're talking about utilITy. From here on, usefulness is going to be the benchmark for information technologies.

The overall state of the economy is partly responsible -- take a little froth off the bubble and people start getting testy about value for money, but consumers are also maturing, markets are getting saturated, and the novelty value of a lot of these gadgets is waning.

To a large degree, that is behind the shakeout in the stock markets. Irrational exuberance has had its day, and investors are now demanding a return on capital. Vaporware is one thing, vapor profits and very real losses are another.