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IBM Web Exec Sees Internet Getting Faster, Easier To Use

Wednesday, April 5, 2000

Wall Street Journal (DJ)

By Peter Loftus

LOS ANGELES — The Internet will become faster, more ubiquitous and easier to use, according to a Web operations executive at International Business Machines Corp. (IBM).

John Patrick, vice president of Internet technology at IBM, said the Internet will change so radically that the most common form of Web access today — using a personal computer with a dial-up telephone modem — will seem like a technology relic in a few years.

In a keynote speech Wednesday at the Internet World conference here, Patrick said using the Web with portable, wireless devices and home appliances will become more common. And users won’t have to wait through those trademark beeps that a computer modem makes when dialing into the Web because connections will be “always-on,” he said.

“For many people, the personal digital assistant will be the only computer they need,” Patrick said. “They’ll never have PCs.”

The ways in which people use the Internet will change, too, he said. Whereas instant messaging is now perceived as a recreational technology used primarily by teenagers, Patrick said many companies — including IBM — use instant messaging as a primary means of business communications. He expects its use in the office to proliferate.

Patrick also expects the spread of open-source software to help fuel the Internet’s growth and development. He said the Linux operating system, the source code for which is available for free, is the wave of the future. This spells bad news for companies like Sun Microsystems Inc. (SUNW) and Microsoft Corp. (MSFT), Patrick said, because they cling to proprietary operating systems.

“You have Sun saying, ‘Who needs Linux? we have Solaris,”‘ Patrick said. “You have Microsoft saying, ‘Who needs Linux? We have Windows 2000.’ Then you have IBM saying, ‘I think we all need Linux.’ Only the greatest sinners know how to really repent.”

That last line drew a knowing laugh from the tech-heavy crowd, aware that in the past, IBM itself didn’t have much luck selling its own proprietary operating system in competition against Microsoft. What’s more, IBM’s decision to use Microsoft’s operating systems in its PCs during the 1980s helped Microsoft become the heavyweight it is today.

-By Peter Loftus, Dow Jones Newswires; 201-938-5099