15 minutes with John Patrick

15 minutes with John Patrick
Monday, April 24, 2000
Austin American-Statesman

Compiled by Jerry Mahoney

As IBM’s vice president for Internet technology, John Patrick tries to decipher where technology is taking us, and how it can be used beneficially.
“Overall, the next generation of the Internet is about evolution, not revolution,” Patrick says. “But under the covers there are a lot of revolutionary things.”
Like the device from NTT DoCoMo in Tokyo that is an Internet phone with a microbrowser. It can be used for conversation, e-mail and transmitting real-time pictures.
A frequent visitor to IBM’s North Austin campus, Patrick spoke with TechMonday’s Jerry Mahoney recently.
Q: Why would I want one of those devices?
PATRICK: Built into the phone is a screen, and on that screen you can get Web content. They’re building content specifically for this device. You’ll have a color display and audio output. So you plug in a headset with voice recognition, then you get something really interesting. It’s not quite a phone, it’s not quite a PC, it’s not quite a pager, it’s something new. That’s revolutionary, that begins to change the way people think about things: where you can look to see, ‘Did I close
the garage door this morning?’ (Makes sounds of pushing keys on the device.)
‘Ahh, I forgot.’ Then you push the button and down goes the garage door.
Q: How would it know? By connecting to some computer in the house?
PATRICK: Right, through the local-area network at the house, having sensors telling you if the pipes are frozen or the garage door is up, or the lights are on or whatever. It pushes that content over the Internet to your device. It’s not a matter of taking PC content and putting it on different devices.
There are a billion Web pages today, and 98 percent are viewed on a PC through a browser. In two years, that will be less than 50 percent. Not because of any decline in PCs. It’s because of new things like phones, pagers, PDAs, information appliances.
There will be new kinds of formats. Plus, over the next couple of years we’re going to see “transcoding,” which is converting existing Web pages so that they make sense on these other kinds of devices.
But also new content will be built with these devices in mind, so it will make a lot more sense. You won’t design it big and scrunch it down.
You will use voice-browsing, where your voice commands will drive what you see. You might want to find a restaurant, you might want to look up somebody’s phone number. You might want to do a financial transaction.
Q: What else is coming?
PATRICK: One of the things I’m quite excited about is the combination of instant messaging with voice recognition, with language translation, with text-to-speech. And you put those four things together and you get a real-time, multilingual intercom. Let’s say someone calls customer service and asks a question in Spanish. The question is routed to the person who knows most about that subject matter, who happens to be Chinese, and who answers the question in Chinese and the questioner hears the answer in Spanish.