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Hot Seat: John Patrick

Wednesday, December 1, 1999

by Christopher Null

John patrick likes trouble. eats it for breakfast. As VP of Internet technology for IBM and chairman of the Global Internet Proj ect, he’s the ultimate pessimist. He’s paid to smoke out anything that slows down Internet growth. And our money’s on him. After all, he’s the guy who invented the ThinkPad brand.

What scares you the most about Internet regulation?

I’m not opposed to all regulation. But I am against government efforts to impose old regulatory models on this new medium. Regulation is not the only way to solve policy problems.

What’s the most outrageous use of the Net that you’ve seen?

Two recent examples: One, there’s an Internet startup company that has no product other than its own stock—which it gives away on its Web site. Two, several Web sites enable you to start your own religion and recruit new members online. Who knows what someone will come up with tomorrow.

So why is this happening?

It’s all part of the evolution of the medium. One of the great things about the Internet is that there doesn’t have to be just one model. And if a model doesn’t work, you can change it easily. It’s the world’s greatest market research laboratory.

What’s the biggest lie about the Internet?

That everyone is online. This is not true. Actually, less than 3 percent of the world population is on the Internet. We are just at the beginning. The Web has grown to its infancy–almost.

What one thing would you like to change about IBM?

The name. I’d keep the initials. I hope people will think of Internet Business Miracles when they think of IBM.

Who do you think will be the next Microsoft?

I think that the open-source movement, the popularity of Java, and the growing diversity of devices and applications on the Internet will make it impossible for any one company to dominate the industry. Microsoft is a powerful technology company and, as a result, an industry leader. I believe it will be contributing to the development of the computing industry for many years to come.

Who will be the next IBM?