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Agenda 2003

The Agenda 2003 conference is this week in Scottsdale, Arizona — it will be the eleventh year I have attended. The speakers are usually good but the best part is seeing old friends and renewing acquaintances. I am heading to the dinner now and am looking forward to seeing many of them. I’ll post more info here in the blog as the conference progresses.

The reception and dinner were as expected — meeting and chatting with many friends from years past. The first person I ran into was Sheldon Laube, chairman of Centerbeam, and friend for many years. His wife Nancy is a doctor but also loves to take pictures of people at conferences. They are delightful people. Sheldon is famous in many ways but my relationship with him began years ago when he was a “bleeding edge” user of Lotus Notes. Sheldon was referred to extensively in “Crossing the Chasm”, a book which cited many of the heroes of the early days of the last decade of information technology and marketing accomplishments.

A number of people from the press attend Agenda and after all these years I know most of them. It is always good to run into Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal, Dan Gillmor of Mercury News, John Markof of the New York Times, Kevin Maney of USA Today, Steven Levy of Newsweek, and Michael Miller of PC Magazine. They have all quoted me or cursed me at one point in the last ten years. Then I ran into Eric Schmidt, Chairman & CEO of Google, Gordon Eubanks, President & CEO of Oblix, Esther Dyson, chairman of EDventure Holdings, Marc Benioff, Chairman & CEO of salesforce.com, Howard Morgan, Vice Chairman of Idealab and various other friends.

Somehow the topic of blogging came up. Could be that I am passionate about the topic. The consensus among the journalists was consistent — they don’t have the time or interest to be bloggers. This is understandable. Everyone though believed that blogging is in fact a really big deal. I don’t think anyone thinks it is as big a deal as I think it is but I haven’t really articulated my views sufficiently. This is something I am working on for an upcoming blog posting here at patrickWeb.

One significant thought that I gained from the evening was from a discussion with Robert Morris, IBM vice president and director of IBM’s Almaden Research Center. Robert made the point that blogging is not going to replace publishing as we know it any more than the web replaced newspapers. A blog is yet another component of the portfolio that we will all have at our disposal. I believe blogs will encroach on the time we spend on newspapers and trade journals — especially the latter. Important developments will show up in a lot of places and many of us will turn to the blog of a respected blogger to get a point of view — not instead of a fully edited piece at major publications but as an intermediary source from which to get a point of view and links to more in depth coverage.

Monday morning started out with a fireside chat between Jim Fallows (Agenda producer) and Rob Glaser, chairman & CEO of RealNetworks. He was bullish on streaming media subscription services for consumers but more cautious about the enterprise systems business. He was quite cautious about on-line music services. He talked about Helix as a common and open standard for media delivery. RealNetworks plans to open the source code for Helix and is hoping for a broadly accepted approach for streaming much like what Sun did with Java.

Next up was a discussion on stage between Jim and Team Microsoft — Craig Mundie and Dan’l Lewin. It is really hard to summarize the broad discussion. Bottom line was that Craig and Dan were very bullish about the future of the I/T and PC/devices. Craig used an Acer prototype tablet PC to make some drawings. Just like etch-a-sketch. I don’t see using one really soon. Audience questions focused on dot net and as usual, the answer was a bit hard to understand.

Ann Livermore, executive vice president for services at HP was last on stage before the morning break. She described the HP – Compaq merger and how they are going about it. She said that the I/T industry is a maturing industry — segments within it are growing but that overall it is a mature industry. An audience vote was 2-3 to 1 believing that the I/T industry was more in the adolescent stage rather than the mature stage. I am certainly in the group who believes there is potential for renewed growth of the I/T industry.

After the break, Pat Gelsinger, CTO at Intel, came to the stage. Pat put forth the idea that web services is fundamentally flawed because it optimizes to the network as opposed to direct computing resources; e.g. microprocessors. Surprise! He was very bullish on the future of Intel and the potential of new forms of chips for wireless, sensor based applications, software defined radios, etc. Pat said Intel was a huge believer in 802.11 and they expect it to be ubiquitous. Somewhat contrary to his negative comments about web services, he made numerous comments about how critical it is for the United States to accelerate the build-out of broadband.

Next was a panel from the entertainment and publishing industry leaders discussed digital media. The hole in the protection scheme is that most of the content is still analog. A DVD starts out as digital but the output of a DVD player is analog and therefore can be easily copied. Once everything is digital, then watermarking can be easily used to protect the content. There was a good debate about “fair use”. The panelists and audience questioners could not even agree on what the scope of “fair use” is. Listening to the debate makes it clear that this issue is going to take a long time to resolve. I have written about this subject in Net Attitude but based on what I heard today, I plan to write more about the subject. The basic issue is that many consumers expect that when they buy a CD or DVD that they should have the right to make a backup copy of it and also place a copy on personally owned portable players and PCs. The industry representatives claimed they want to offer many choices but that the more choice you want the more you should have to pay. I think most of the audience believes that the industry is out of touch.

Last part of the morning was two fireside chats; one with Ray Bingham, President & CEO of Cadence Design Systems and the other with Yogesh Gupta, CTO of Computer Associates International.

After lunch a fireside chat took place between Jim and Dr. Richard Garwin, Senior Fellow for Science & Technology, Council on Foreign Relations. It was intriguing to say the least. He described how commercial (non-military) GPS was used in the 1991 Gulf War — tank commanders using velcro to attach handheld GPS receivers on tanks. He went on to talk about the crucial role that information technology will play in any future wars. Bottom line — I/T gives considerable advantage to the U.S. and allies. In the case of terrorism, the advantage is to the other side . Terrorists can use google and find out how to do bad things. His overall assessment of the impact of terrorism was horrifying — the greatest exposure being contagious biological agents. Dr. Garwin’s website has the longest archive time-span I have ever seen for an individual.

Dr. Garwin’s sobering discussion was followed by a security panel including Dr. Garwin plus Gregor Freund, Co-Founter & CEO of Zone Labs, Inc., Gilman Louie, President & CEO of In-Q-Tel, and Peter Schwartz, Co-Founder & Chairman of Global Business Network.

Bill Gross, Chairman of Idealab! gave a demo of some of the things he is working on. Very impressive. One of the demos was of an innovative program called Find.

J. Bradford DeLong, Professor of Economics, UC Berkeley vs. Eric Schmidt, Chairman & CEO of Google then a lively debate about whether the I/T industry has good or bad prospects in the future. The professor was very bullish and Eric was more cautious if not pessimistic.

Fireside chat with David Gelernter, Professor at Yale University. Professor Gelernter was very negative about the effectiveness of today’s I/T. Specifically, he feels the capability for information management has not advanced proportional to the advance in computing power and storage. He feels information should be organized and made available more along the lines of how we live our lives not the way file systems and desktops are organized.

The dinner speaker was Michael Crichton. He is a truly remarkable individual. I heard him a few years ago at another conference but this time he seemed to relate more intimately and in a more relevant way. He talked about technology and how he uses it personally and what his expectations are.They are high as I think most of ours are. His tolerance for software that doesn’t work well or is hard to use is low. Ditto for most of us. It is time for new models. Crichton said, “You can’t make it too simple”.

The first fireside chat of the morning was with Vinod Khosla, General Partner at Kleiner Perkins, Caufield & Byers. Vinod feels the rate of innovation has not slowed down even though the rate of investment has slowed. Nanotech and biotech look promising — maybe bubbles coming. Technology as a percentage of GDP will continue to increase as it has for many years. Vinod was very bullish about the long term and was full of great advice and insight as always.

The Vortex Thought Leaders Panel included Jeffrey Blumenfeld, Partner, Antitrust and Communications at GrayCary, Tom Evslin, Chairman & CEO at ITXC Corp., Ron Ricci, Vice President, Corporate Positioning at Cisco, and Robert Pepper, Chief, Office of Plans & Policy at the FCC. The discussion was lively to put it mildly. Lots of consensus that broadband is not being deployed rapidly enough and that the problem is the two monopolies — cable and DSL. Should there be a government broadband policy and if so what should that policy be. There is a lot of emotion on the broadband topic but the solutions continue to be elusive. The issues clearly are not technical nor related to lack of supply. Hopefully, WiFi will come to the rescue. (Numerous postings in my blog about WiFi — soon I will write another and create an index to all my WiFi postings).

Fireside chat with Alfred Chuang, Founder, Chairman & CEO at BEA Systems, Inc. A lot of discussion about web services but agreement with other speakers that companies are not buying web services but rather are buying solutions that happen to use web services. He sees a consolidation of I/T providers and intense competition. He sees IBM and Microsoft as the other two major players.

Next was an International Panel including Julian Fisher, M.D., CEO at Scholarly Exchange, Inc., Stuart Gannes, Director, Digital Vision Fellowship Program at Stanford University, and Mari Kuraishi, Co-founder of DevelopmentSpace.The discussion was broad and deep. Does I/T help or hurt with international relations? What impact can charitable activities have? It was a really good discussion.

Before lunch was a Corporate Governance Town Meeting led by Jim Fallows and Jeffrey Rudman, Senior Partner & Chair, Corporate and Securities, Litigation Group at Hale & Dorr LLP. Audience opinions ranged from “every company has dirty hands” to “there a few bad apples”. Most people were closer to the latter. Jeffrey urged companies and the industry to be proactive to protect against a stampede of regulatory controls and suits.

Unfortunately, I had to leave the conference at noon in order to head for an IBM CIO conference in Paris. The next few days will be a whirlwind.

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