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John Patrick Dreams, Internet World 2000 Listens

Thursday, April 6, 2000

By Nate Mook – BetaNews

LIVE FROM INTERNET WORLD – John Patrick describes himself best. “I am Vice President of Internet Technology at IBM Corporation,” he says. “My job is Chief Technology Officer for IBM’s Internet activities. Some people call me the strategist, some call me a visionary, and some call me chief dreamer.”

To the hundreds of people who packed the main auditorium of the Los Angeles Convention Center to hear him give the first afternoon’s Keynote Address at Internet World Spring 2000, he was all three, as he spoke about his vision of the future of the Internet.

For Patrick, the future of the Internet has only just begun; and he made this point by reminding the assembled Internet-savvy executives and consumers that the percentage of the world’s population who are online at any given time is virtually zero.

We are, Patrick said, only at the beginning of transferring power from institutions to the people, who are themselves just beginning to appreciate the “power of the click.”

For Patrick, the future of the Internet can be summed up in eight words. It will be fast, always on, everywhere, natural, easy, intelligent, and trusted.

“Fast” refers to bandwidth, which Patrick sees as becoming plentiful as competition between cable and telephone companies intensifies and the difference in services being provided by each disappears. In fact, Patrick sees the bottleneck of Internet access shifting from the modem to the server, as the capabilities of ISPs (Internet service providers) are unable to cope with the demand for increased Internet usage that’s been fueled by the advantages offered by greater bandwidth.

“Always on” means that since consumers will no longer have to dial up to get access to the Internet since the connection is always open, consumers will begin to do things online that they don’t do now.

The Internet of the future will be the archive for all kinds of services, such as weather and traffic reports, which users will access quite routinely, since the connection is always open.

Patrick analogizes the change in Internet behavior as similar to when people no longer had to ring up an operator to place a telephone call.

“Everywhere” is another key element of Patrick’s future Internet. Today, 98 percent of online content is viewed through the PC. But, as Web-enabled devices begin to flood the marketplace, Patrick expects that number to decrease to 50 percent in two years.

Some of the new Internet-capable devices will be the television, pager, PDA (personal digital assistant), telephone, strategically placed public kiosks, and Internet-based radio. Patrick calls these Internet-enabled devices “information appliances,” and he cites what is presently happening in Europe as an example of how these devices can change the lifestyles of a population.

Historically, Internet usage, to say nothing of e-commerce, in Europe did not enjoy the same degree of acceptance and participation as it did in North America. However, with the advent of Web-enabled telephones, and their popularity in Europe, Patrick sees Europe as “leapfrogging” over the United States within a year in Internet usage, due primarily to the use of the wireless telephone as a Web browser.

Patrick’s Internet of the future will become more natural as instant messaging coupled with voice recognition, text-to-speech conversion and real-time translations all combine to make the Internet a “multilingual intercom.”

The convergence of these technologies is “game-changing,” Patrick said.

A further refining of portals will make the Internet more intelligent. Instead of a predominance of all-purpose potals, much like those that presently exist, there will be specialized portals where people who share a common interest or profession can congregate. There will also be lifestyle portals, and portals for people in different kinds of demographic groups.

A major aspect of the new Internet will be its ease of use. Open architecture, shared source codes and, for Patrick, the development and enhancement of Linux, will make accessing Internet content much easier.

Patrick makes no bones about his feelings for Linux, which he also calls a “game-changer.” Linux is not, Patrick said, based 90 percent on a cult following and ten percent on discipline. Rather, he would reverse the percentages. “Linux,” he said, “levels the playing field.”

And, to show his audience that he knows about what he speaks, Patrick reminded everyone that, “Only the greatest sinners know how to really repent.”

For the “trust” component of the Internet of the future, Patrick says that we need to develop a digital ID for everyone, which will be able to authenticate, as well as receive authorization. This will allow for the confidence that a transaction cannot be repudiated by saying that it was unauthorized.

According to Patrick, digital identification is not something to be feared, but something that should be “embraced.” Not to be embraced would be government regulation, except that Patrick noted that some legislative assistance was necessary to make a digital signature as valid as a “few drops of ink on paper.”

As for an overall view, Patrick said that the next generation Internet will host millions of new businesses. But he warned, some of these new businesses would fail and so they should, because they are not all created equal.

Patrick believes that consumers are not being listened to enough by businesses that transact commerce online, but that this will change as the business relationship transforms from being essentially people- to-server, to server-to-server.

Patrick closed his remarks with four thoughts for e-retailers. He told his audience to “think outside in,” for that was where the people are.

He also said that we should “think big,” but start simple and grow fast.

Patrick advised the building of a framework and design for scalability, so as not to be the victim of our own success.

And finally, Patrick said to “get a taste of Internet culture.” Anyone who did not know what that meant, he said only half in jest, should get their Web site approved by a 16-year old to see if it made any sense.

Reported by Newsbytes.com