CNET Radio – PM Drive

Wednesday, November 29, 2000
Kevin Patrick, anchor: I’m Kevin Patrick. Thanks for joining us. And a man who has a beautiful sounding last name is joining me in studio, John Patrick. He’s the VP of Internet Technology with IBM. Good afternoon, John. I am doing terrific, and I’ve got your microphone on here. You are a man that, we bring you on and talk to you not so much because it’s topical for today, but because of what you’ve done, what you’ve seen, and that also gives us a view into the future. You are a man who worked for IBM. You were behind the ThinkPad. You were the one who essentially brought that into–into fruition. I mean, you brought it about. You’re a man who’s seen the Internet evolve. You’ve served on a variety of boards. Tell me about some of the–some of the boards you’ve served on, helped create to bring this technology along. John Patrick (Vice President Internet Technology, IBM): I’ve been very fortunate to be able to participate in the evolution of the Internet over the past five or six years. With regard to boards, I guess the first was the World Wide Web Consortium, which we started at MIT back in ’94. Patrick: And you were a founding member of that? J.Patrick: Yes, I was a founding member, along with Tim Berners-Lee. Tim, of course, was the brains and the inspiration behind it. But IBM was one of the first companies, the initial four or five companies to get it started. And subsequently, the Global Internet Project, which was started out here by Jim Clark at Netscape back in ’95, and I was a founding member of that as well, and I’m currently the chairman of the Global Internet Project. This is a public policy group that focuses on the good of the Internet, the policy issues associated with the Internet, and tries to bring visibility to them. Patrick: And since you are in town and you are one of the leading Internet visionaries, we wanted to talk to you about just where you see things going, because it is so often discussed that we’re in such an amazing time that if you do think back even five or six years, the layman only knew in very vague terms what the information superhighway was, what the Internet was. I recall seeing a commercial and I believe it may have been an IBM commercial, a little girl and a snowy–snowy scape behind her, talking about the information superhighway. The fact that we didn’t even know what it was just a few years ago, where do you see us going in the next five years? J.Patrick: Well, at this point, I would say it’s groomed to its infancy. We’re really at the very beginning. Patrick: We’re still in the infancy. J.Patrick: Very much so. It appears at times like, you know, everybody’s connected, and sort of, everything that’s going to happen has happened. But really we’re only maybe a couple of percent of the way into it. The number of people actually doing something on the Internet right this very second, as a percentage of the world’s population, rounds off to one or two percent, maybe zero. It’s very, very small. Patrick: A lot of those folks are buying books online or doing something like that, but I assume you see a bigger thing than… J. Patrick: Oh, yeah. Patrick: …just small-ticket e-commerce type items. Patrick: Oh, for sure. J.Patrick: I mean, the Internet is evolving. It’s not only a new medium, but “the” new medium. And all forms of communication will be utilizing the Internet, whether it’s radio or television, video, fax, e-mail, instant messaging and, of course, the Web. But also things that we don’t think about so much today, like real-time data delivery–being able to monitor the pacemaker of a loved one, or real-time weather data from weather equipment on your roof. We’ll begin to think of the Internet and the Web as two different things. The Internet providing the underlying connectivity will become sort of just there. You know, today you log on to the Internet, but soon you’ll just be on. Patrick: It’ll be just kind of ubiquitous. J. Patrick: Like electricity–you know, you don’t log on to the power grid to use your toaster. Patrick: Uh-huh. J. Patrick: It’s just there. Patrick: We’re talking with John Patrick. He’s the VP of Internet technology with IBM. And you’re in town for–for what conference that’s going on? J.Patrick: The Radio Ink Conference. Tomorrow morning at 8:45, I’ll be speaking there about the future of the Internet. Patrick: I always wanted to ask you, in terms of being a visionary–and that’s the word I keep coming back to–what is your mind set on a day-to-day basis to think beyond what everybody else is looking at? I mean, how do you see things to get around that, and, to use the cliche, think outside the box? J.Patrick: Well, I don’t know. I don’t think of myself as a visionary. I’m just very fortunate to be able to do this for a living, you know, to live in the Internet and think about what’s going on. And I’m not really thinking about five years out or ten years out or twenty years out. I’m really focused on, what’s it going to be six, eight, to eighteen, twenty-four months from now? Patrick: Um-hmm. J.Patrick: I don’t think anybody can tell you what it’s going to be like ten or twenty years from now. Patrick: But is it going to be exciting, regardless of the downturn in the markets and all the doom and gloom and the presidential problems going on? J.Patrick: Oh yeah. Yeah those things are all just a little blip on the radar screen. Business to consumer is very alive and well. Business to business is a lot bigger than that, but really, all aspects of Internet are doing quite well. The market capitalization of a lot of companies was inflated… Patrick: Um-hmm. J.Patrick: …because there was a lot of money chasing a very relatively few ideas. And that’s causing a lot of pain, currently. But that retraction in no way should overshadow the bigger picture, which is that the Internet is evolving in a way that very soon will make today’s Internet seem primitive. And we will soon think of this new medium as something that’s extraordinarily fast, always on everywhere, very natural to use, quite intelligent, easy, and trusted. Those are the characteristics. Patrick: There is a–there is an author that I spoke with, in fact, with Business Week, and this is stuck in my craw for a couple of months–just a final thing. He wrote a book called–and maybe you’ve seen it or heard about it–“The Coming Internet Depression.” And he talks about how money is tied to–to people that come up with the ideas, that people don’t venture out with their ideas unless they have the backing, unless they have the venture capital. And then if one dries up, so does the other to a large degree. Are you a person that’s–that goes along with that school of thought? J.Patrick: Well, no, I think, first of all, there’s plenty of money to go around. The economy is very healthy and it has generated significant capital, and so the money is available. And there’s no shortage of good ideas. In fact, I think some of the retractions that we’re seen–or contractions that we’ve seen with many companies a little bit gives the wrong impression. For example, we just saw this week that eStamp has pulled back from what they were doing. Patrick: Um-hmm. J.Patrick: That doesn’t mean that that was a bad idea. It’s a really, really good idea. I love Stamps.com. EStamp is good also, but the market wasn’t big enough to sustain a number of companies with huge market cap. That little market just isn’t that big. Patrick: Um-hmm. J.Patrick: But printing your stamps from the Internet is a terrific, extremely productive, makes-your-life-easier kind of an idea. So there’s no shortage of money, there’s no shortage of really great ideas. We just have to sort of, let’s say, recalibrate how big markets are and what the market capitalization supporting those markets should be. Patrick: You’re not trying to tell me that there’s not space for twenty different dog biscuit companies online, for example. J.Patrick: Good–good example. Patrick: That’s–OK. You are telling me that. J.Patrick: Right. Patrick: John Patrick, VP of Internet Technology with IBM, thanks a lot for your time. J.Patrick: You’re welcome.