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IBM Exec Says to Expect Human Interaction on the Net

IBM Exec Says to Expect Human Interaction on the Net

Monday, February 1, 1999

Mark Huffman and Patrice Pascual, Third Age News Service
floridatoday.com
Page 01D


Since the Internet became the world’s library, real librarians never have seemed more valuable. If you wish the Internet had a live help desk or that it looked more like television or that you never had to type again, your wishes might come true — soon.

According to John Patrick , IBM ‘s vice president for Internet technology, those and other innovations are being explored throughout the industry. Patrick talked with Third Age News about how these changes might affect our daily life. Excerpts of that conversation follow.

THIRD AGE : What will happen to the Internet in the next two to three years?

JOHN PATRICK : The network is going to continue to evolve. Just like radio evolved — AM, FM, FM stereo — and TV evolved — black- and-white, color, color surround sound, theater sound — the Internet is still evolving and becoming a very rich new medium that will facilitate natural human interaction.

At times, we think everybody’s connected. The truth is that when you take all the people connected in the world as a percentage of the world’s population, it still just about rounds off to zero. The thing it’s going to take to get billions of people utilizing the network is a much more natural approach, where media converge. So when you’re on a Web page and you’re ordering something, or examining something and you’re not sure what to do and you say “help,” a window opens up and there’s a person, real-time, with high-quality video, full screen, who says, “Hi, how can I help you?” So that’s the major thing that we’re just embarking on right now, is the evolution to the next generation of the Internet.

TA: What about 25 years down the road? How will technology change the workplace?

JP: The pace of technological change is still accelerating. It took about 30 years to get 50 million people listening to radio, and probably 15 years to get 50 million watching television, and maybe 10 years for 50 million to adapt to cable, and about five years for the Web. So the adoption rate is increasing, and the technological advancements are increasing in pace.

I do think it’s fair to say the concept of “natural Net” is going to happen. . . . People will be looking for ease of life on the network — not ease of use of a PC program, but things that make their lives easier because they can do them over the Internet. This may sound a little far-reaching, but we’re about to enter a period of tremendous growth in bandwidth (on) the superhighway to the Internet, and also in that last mile to the home. What’s causing this is the introduction of new technology, but also competition — so tremendous bandwidth is going to be available and this will make the network natural. When it becomes natural, people will become geo-independent — people will live where they want to live.

In the old days, you would look for a job where you wanted to live. In the not-too-distant future, those things will become separated and people will make those decisions independently. “I’m going to live where I want to live and I’ll work for whoever I want to work for, and the network will be how I commute.” I’m not suggesting that everyone on the planet will be able to independently decide where they want to live, but a much larger percentage will.

TA: What will happen to hardware?

JP: Devices will be more personalized. Some people will use their PCs, some will use network computers, some will use their televisions, some will use their telephones that will have their screen on it. We’re going to see a whole new class of devices that are tailored to the person.

TA: How can home-based businesses best use technology?

JP: More and more people have local area networks in their homes today which allow them to share a printer or fax capabilities, or to share storage capacity across multiple PCs in the home, (which enhances) local computing efficiency at home. The other half is in the Internet. (It will) allow a person in home to have the same reach of GM or Fujitsu or IBM or Barclays Bank to cross boundaries or borders — and if they have a really good idea, to enable that idea to become commercially successful using the information distribution capability.

Caption: B&W photo by Third Age News Service JOHN PATRICK is IBM ‘s vice president for internet technology.