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John Patrick’s Vision: NGI

April 3, 2000

Copyright by Karen Back

If there were a prize for best speech, John Patrick, IBM’s Vice-President of Internet Technology, would win for his keynote at Spring Internet World 2000, even though it was a bit long.

Using a seamless combination of information, personal anecdotes, video and sound effects, Patrick scored a direct hit with the audience focusing on NGI (next generation of the Internet) which he predicted will be everywhere, always on, fast, natural, intelligent, easy-to-use and trusted.

“Every day we read about the transformation from the economy to an e-conomy,” he said. “What’s changing the game? Linux–open systems software–and the power of the click. The Internet is about the massive transfer of
power from institutions to people who have the ability to click a mouse or mobile phone to engage in e-commerce, education or entertainment.”

His formula: Listen to people = Be successful. And adapt to the Internet.

Patrick gave examples of what didn’t work on the Net:

  1. He got an email from a financial services company that read, “Thanks for your recent inquiry. Unfortunately we can’t do that by email. You have to speak to a customer service representative. Call us during our business hours, Monday to Friday 9 – 5. If you have any other questions, send us an email.”
  2. He wanted to buy software directly from a website. But when he clicked on the order form, he was told to print the form, fill it out and fax it to the company.
  3. He called to book a hotel room and wanted to pay for it by using a Frequent Stayer coupon posted on the hotel’s website. But the reservationist, who couldn’t access the website, suggested he call them during normal business hours and they’d overnight a copy of the web coupon to him for $35.

“This isn’t e-business,” said Patrick. “Are the companies uninformed? No. What we’re talking about is application integration, the holy grail of e-business.” In the hotel example, the reservation system wasn’t able to talk to the frequent stayer system because they were incompatible, had been designed separately, at different times on different platforms.

“There’s a decision companies have to make,” he said. “I call it accommodation. You have to decide if you’re going to accommodate people and embrace the Internet or continue to do business the way you have been.”

His suggestions of ways to survive and thrive on the Net:

  1. Think outside in. Outside is where all the people are. They have the power. Walk in their shoes.
  2. Think big. Start simple. Grow fast. The old model, an 18 month cycle, was plan, build, deliver. The new model, an 18 hour cycle, is sense and respond.
  3. Don’t just throw things up against the wall. Have a blueprint. The biggest problem some companies have is becoming successful.
  4. Do research: Look at sites all over the world to get a taste of Internet culture. Every new website should be approved by a 16-year-old or senior citizen who can tell you if it looks and feels right.


Intriguing future-tech demonstrated by IBM’s Internet guru John Patrick included multilingual instant messages. He typed a message to a German colleague, Frank, which was translated from English to German. The message was then played to Frank (using text speech technology) so he could listen to it in German. Frank answered in German; his message was translated into English.

Patrick, who described the combination of instant messaging, voice recognition, language translation and text-to-speech as a real-time multilingual intercom, suggested considering the customer service applications. For example, a customer asks a question in Spanish which is routed to the most knowledgeable person in that subject who answers in Chinese. The customer listens to the answer in Spanish.

In the future, expect to see the Internet on your pager, TV (95% of the time it’ll be a TV; the other 5%, a browser), digital assistant and mobile phone.

The mobile phone’s already emerging as an important browser, said Patrick, who recently returned from the Orient where he observed trend-setting Japanese teen-agers sending pictures of themselves to each other using the i-mode phone.

He believes people will substitute smoke breaks for web breaks in public kiosks located not only on the street but in jungles, schools, churches and government buildings. And that there will be information appliances like the Internet radio which will receive thousands of radio stations worldwide instead of being restricted to stations 40 miles away.

“The Internet is the only thing that works the same everywhere,” said Patrick who strongly feels there should be open standards. “The side of the car we drive on, the width of the railroad tracks, the plugs we put in the wall, everything’s different. Except for the Internet.”