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Who Are Today's Enrons?

Another Enron trial is heading your way -- this time over an alleged scheme to bilk millions from stockholders by hyping the supposed success of the company's broadband business. Prosecutors allege that the company officials made false claims about its broadband network capabilities and business outlook as a way to drive up stock prices, so that they could sell stock at its peak before the crash hit.

Prosecutors cite a video-on-demand deal with Blockbuster that never actually materialized, money laundering, security fraud, insider trading ...the whole usual dirty bag of tricks.

It's easy to look back on Enron and those times and say it was obvious that the broadband unit was making pie-in-the-sky promises. The technology for what they were promising simply didn't exist. After all, we're much smarter now about those things, aren't we?

Are we, really? I think not. In fact, there's as much a danger today as then for overhyped technology to leave investors in the lurch. So which networking technologies are being overhyped?

For a start, there's VoIP, and all Internet telephony. Don't get me wrong, I have no doubt that VoIP and converged networks are the future of voice and data. But at this point there are too many companies chasing too few dollars. Vonage, Skype, all the big cable providers, telephone companies, America Online, countless startups -- there's a long list, and it's getting longer all the time. The technology is certainly here to stay, but there's simply no way all these companies will be able to cash in.

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