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John Patrick presents: The State of the Internet (Dec. 15, 1999)

by Jack Corcoran

John Patrick at podiumIT IS ALWAYS A PLEASURE to attend a John Patrick presentation. I would go out of my way to hear him talk about running or motorcycles, or any of his other interests. But when he is talking about the present and near-term future of the Internet, it is not only a pleasure to listen to him but also an opportunity. John’s job as vice president of Internet technology at IBM is all about direction, direction, direction. He goes everywhere, sees it all, talks to everyone, listens to everything, and then, calling his unique talents into play, senses where the Net is going and articulates it masterfully.
The incredible thing is that IBM gives him the freedom to come and tell us all about it-at least most of it. Can you imagine what a John Patrick presentation would be like in a closed IBM executive session?
John’s presentation should be considered pure opportunity by anyone of us whose interests or livelihood is tied to the Internet. For what he does is describe the “what” and then tie in the “who” and the “how.” Again and again he pictures the emerging scene. He goes into detail about greater content, instant messaging, expanding access, etc. Then, he talks about who could use this enhanced capability and how they are adapting their lifestyle to it. These are the factors we use for business decisions and career choices, as well as our investments of money and time. John lays it out. It’s ours for the taking.
John’s organized his presentation into eleven structured sections. Each started with the section title displayed on a beautiful graphics background. The supporting displays were succinct, easily readable, and made specific points. In just the presentation media itself, we were watching an art form.
His opening set of displays projected “the big picture.” Although currently less than one percent of the world population uses the Net, its growth has exceeded not only John’s own expectations, but even the wild hype of as little as a year ago. The driving factors of new markets and the evolving medium reinforce each other. Overall, he emphasized that the power of the Web is that of transferring power to the people. “Watch the people first, then design the access,” he told us.
John’s next section covered “What is really going on.” He talked about our kids locking on to chat capabilities, synchronous messages, the emerging presence of TV on the Web, and the impending major shakeup in the way universities will function to provide learning. He went on to new stuff, such as the weatherbox and language translation, always tying in how these things are here and now and how their evolution is changing our life patterns.
Going on to “millions of e-businesses,” John pointed out that while we are primarily aware of the mainstream e-businesses providing us with books, airline reservations, and just about every other consumer item imaginable, the volume of business-to-business transactions is easily ten times greater.
John’s section on “portals everywhere” defined the purpose of the portal as providing the means to the end. He pointed out that since there is an oversupply of production facilities worldwide, a properly designed portal will identify the good ones. This casual observation portends a major shift in the way companies select suppliers. It also alerts us on what to look for when watching companies adapt to using the Net.
Next, John moved on to the “evolution of the medium.” Bandwidth galore is now available from cable, telephone systems, and satellites. Information is transmitted in packets, and the packets don’t care what they ride on. To the delight of IBM, servers are becoming the problem. The average user in the Danbury area doesn’t see this yet, but anyone who expects to earn a living on the Internet over the next few years had better think about bigger, more powerful servers, not bandwidth.
Looking into the future, but not too far, John projected the “next-generation Internet.” While a tenfold improvement in anything else is usually enough to cause major changes, the increases in bandwidth will more than triple that and lead to entirely new lifestyles. John called the example he used “geo-independence.” Businesspeople and other professionals are now spending more and more time working away from the office, tele- and e-communicating from airplanes, hotels, and virtual offices all over the world. This trend is rapidly evolving into a phenomenon that John called the “video wall,” in which people can conduct business and participate in e-meetings from wherever they happen to be.
In “What is it going to be like?”, John projected ubiquitous access, with PCs taking a lesser role as the Net appears on PDAs, telephones, and satellite-driven devices.
Several sections covered what we can expect in changing lifestyles as the applications expand to a global reach and time constraints disappear. John’s message here was to think globally and use the Net to accommodate people, anywhere, anytime.
The wrap-up of the formal presentation was “How to survive (and thrive) on the Net,” which consisted of a bevy of one-liners on developing the necessary mental Net attitude to succeed in building new applications on it. These were so simple and comfortable in appearance that only in careful review can we appreciate their depth and intrinsic value.
The Q and A session that followed lasted more than half an hour. Questions covered Internet activity in China (growth is explosive, influencing politics, English will soon be a minority language on the Web), control issues (backbones are financed by the ISPs, government has a role in digital signature use, the UN is not structured to play a role in regulating the Net), financial transactions (banks are dragging the development, smart cards are going great in Europe), “Is the Net going in the right direction?” (yes, generally), and so on into the night. The session would be continuing still if Jeff hadn’t interrupted with the raffle prizes.
There are two ways of doing a John Patrick presentation. One way is just to come to the meeting, be entertained, and go home with a warm, fuzzy feeling for the Internet. The other way is to consider it an opportunity. You go to his website, johnpatrick.com, tab around to “current presentations,” and go through the displays twice, the first time for an overall perspective and the second time taking notes. Then you attend the meeting and upgrade your notes from his general remarks. The day after the meeting you go back to the Website and re-live the presentation. Now you are ready to take advantage of the opportunity. You review your own quest for fame, fortune, and honor in the light of John’s insights. Your call.
This was the best meeting of the year, no contest. We look forward to next year.
Jack Corcoran is is an old, retired computer programmer who would be perfectly happy to have his lifestyle change. He can be contacted at [email][email protected][/email].