People at a conferenceThe 17th Annual Genesys Partners Venture Dinner — Gen XVII– Monday night at the Union League Club in New York attracted more than 100 venture capitalists, investors, journalists, entrepreneurs, and industry executives. As always, Jim Kollegger — CEO of Genesys Partners and one of the pioneers of the information industry — was an elegant master of ceremonies. He introduced the various sponsors, next day panelists for the SIIA Conference, several startup CEO’s, and a few of us who have been around the block a few times, each to make some comments.
Like a broken record, I offered the normal upbeat view of the future of the Internet but prefaced my remarks by asserting that we are only 10% of the way there. In other words, of all the things that could be done on the Internet that would save us time and make our lives better, only 10% of them are there. It may sound low but consider retail e-commerce. Although there has been continuous and steady growth of retail e-commerce it still represents just 4% of total retail (as of the end of October). Why isn’t it 25% or more? Much is written about that here at patrickWeb but the short version is that there are still a lot of lame web sites. “Click here for the location of our nearest dealer where you can visit” or “call to buy the product you just found” or “Click here to download this form and fax it to us”. And of course there are the ubiquitous clipboards at doctor offices where we take a pen and provide a lot of information information that they already have.
I described one man’s view of the evolution of the Internet including the seven characteristics below. This parsed way of looking at the Internet has served me well for quite a few years. The things going on under each area continuously change and Jim asks me once a year to do a thumbnail sketch of my latest thinking.

Check markBroadband in the U.S. is not a pretty story compared to other parts of the world. The problem is that there are too many lobbyists and the FCC is a political organization. The new FCC head is a very smart guy with venture and business experience. He totally gets it. The only problem is that AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon have more lawyers than he does. Meanwhile France is racing at full speed to offer 100 megabit access and WiFi throughout the country. Thanks to the telco lobby, many states have banned the offering of WiFi by municipal entities. Every citizen in Greenland has Internet access. We have 31,000 post offices.
Check markWiFi is part of the fabric of the world. The big shift is streaming of data — not just tweets, but data from *things*. Bridges, toll booths, traffic lights and sensors, buildings, cars, and health monitoring devices attached to people. Hospital physicians will soon be adjusting the drip rate on infusion pumps in the hospital from their office based on real-time data from the patient. The WiFi infusion pumps enable hospital administrators to know where the pumps are (they never have enough of them) and which ones need maintenance. WiMax continues to struggle. Some believe it will replace WiFi. My bet is on WiFi and in a two years or less we will have WiGig — gigabit wireless. Ubiquitous wireless plus an explosion of tablet computers is totally changing the model of personal computing.
Check markCloud computing has become the mainstay for me and for millions. The convenience and reliability of the clouds is compelling. Add Dropbox and you have a completely replicated set of data, wherever you are and with whatever device you may be using. The next big wave underway is enterprise cloud computing. Virtualization is making enterprise servers more scalable, reliable, and efficient than ever. AJAX is enabling applications to run in any browser on any kind of computer including mobile. Especially mobile. There are hundreds of millions of PC’s but there are billions of mobile devices. Today most of them are dumb. In a few years most of them will be smart. Opera sofware is enabling even the dumb phones to have web access.
Check markSocial networking may not be a business model in and unto itself but it has become fundamental to all aspects of our economy and society. Integration of social networking with a full range of web applications will evolve to become the primary means of collaboration. The emerging issue is that many people are a bit liberal with sharing their every movement — what they are eating, listening to, where they are headed, their current latitude and longitude, and where they slept last night. They are not thinking that some day they may run for office or interview for a job.
Check mark The Semantic Web is the next big turn of the crank but the crank is moving slowly. Most web pages have links but do not have context. In other words the words on the page do not necessarily mean anything — but they could. If a web page said “Join us for a concert by The Eagles at Kimmel Center in Philadelphia next Tuesday” that set of words could have a lot of context. Clicking on it could add the concert to your calendar, knowing what “next Tuesday” means. It would also know exactly where the Kimmel Center is and that The Eagles is a performing group that performs a particular genre and your music player would receive a list of suggestions of music they have recorded or links to live concerts under way at the moment. This is the tip of the iceberg. The semantic web will lead us to a point where most of the interactions of web pages will be between computers not between computers and people. The biggest growth of intelligence is occurring in the field of analytics. Exabytes of data are being stored. Analytics will enable businesses to make sense of it, model their business and continuously adapt to what is going on. Stay tuned for IBM’s supercomputer to take on humans on the Jeopardy Show.
Check mark Technology isn’t the easiest thing at times. There are many dimensions to “easy” but one good example is the Nintendo Wii. At a local senior center, members find the Wii to be their exercise coach. It is not just for kids! The iPhone and iPad have shown how easy it can be to get applications on a handheld computer. Amazon has done the same with the Kindle. Most companies still don’t get the idea that the Internet is about power to the people. If you can’t make it simple, people won’t buy it.
Check mark This is the big one. Will we trust the Internet? Security technology is available to achieve much higher levels of security than presently deployed both at enterprise and consumer levels. The bigger issue will be privacy. (Stay tuned for the Firefox “do not track” feature). Banks have our personal information and they are using it. Healthcare insurers have more information about our health than our doctors do. Nevertheless, there is much to be optimistic about when it comes to electronic medical records. Maybe 5% of doctors and hospitals use them but this will likely rise fast and the result will be better care, better outcomes, and fewer errors. And, fewer clipboards.

Tomorrow I will be moderating a panel at the SIIA Conference about the future of mobile.