Consultant and journalist

Why Watch? Explosive Harvard Business Review piece declared infotech irrelevant; upcoming book will renew acrid debate.

Last spring, Nicholas Carr's article in the prestigious Harvard Business Review, "IT Doesn't Matter," slapped the tech world upside the head, unleashing what one reporter called "the rhetorical equivalent of a 50-megaton smart bomb." Another commentator, going just a bit over the top, likened it to Martin Luther's 95 theses.

In a nutshell, Carr argues that information technology has become just another commodity, part of the corporate infrastructure like electricity. Everyone uses pretty much the same hardware and software to do pretty much the same things, so there's no longer any competitive advantage to be gained from snapping up the latest bells and whistles. That's good news for many a CEO eager to cut costs, but a chilling prescription for major IT vendors and corporate CIOs whose importance grew with the late-90s tech boom.
Carr's bombshell - denounced by the likes of Bill Gates, Intel's Craig Barrett, and, of course, the ever-pugnacious Scott McNealy of Sun Microsystems - is still being cussed and discussed by the geekerati. Now, Carr's legion of critics is bracing for his book-length salvo due out this year. Just don't look for any latte-stoked book-signing parties at Microsoft headquarters.

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General Manager, IBM Life Sciences

Why Watch? Her team supplies supercomputing muscle that's remaking the world of medicine.

Since the human genome was decoded in 2000, scientists and medical researchers have been deluged with an ever-increasing flood of data. Seeing a major opportunity for its supercomputing and data-management operations, IBM that year created its Life Sciences unit, headed by Carol Kovac, a veteran IBM researcher.