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Net guru John Patrick hot for ‘Wi-Fi’

The News-Times/David W. Harple
John Patrick of Ridgefield, a former vice president at IBM, says “Wi-Fi,” a wireless version of the Internet just beginning become available, is going to be the next big thing in computer technology.

By Mark Langlois

John Patrick at home officeRIDGEFIELD — The Internet didn’t lose its impact when the dot-coms turned into dot-bombs. It remains the most powerful force in worldwide communications to have come along in the past century. And, its most amazing developments are yet to come.
Those are the latest words from Ridgefield’s John Patrick, the retired vice president of Internet Technology at IBM, whose book “Net Attitude” was published by Perseus Publishing in 2001, and is now being reprinted in Chinese, Italian, U.K. English and American English.
Patrick said the whole dot-com implosion wasn’t about the Internet. It was all about companies with bad ideas. “There was one Internet company that had the idea that people who visited its Web site would be given free stock. That was it, the whole company. It had no product. It had no business except its stock,” Patrick said in a Feb. 25 interview at his Ridgefield home. “When 1,000 dot-com companies failed, it had nothing to do with the Internet. It had to do with business ideas that didn’t make sense.”
Patrick was named one of Networking Magazine’s 25 most powerful people in January 2000. He earned a similar award a year earlier in Network World. The National Information Infrastructure Awards gave him its 1996 award for “Invaluable Contributions to the Internet.”
“His predictions are uncanny,” said Ed Heere, president and founder of AMSYS Computers in Ridgefield, and former chairman of the Danbury Area Computer Society. “He saw it all. He called the Internet.” Patrick has been a frequent speaker to DACS members, and was an Internet advocate before any respectable company had an Internet presence.
He said the next big thing on the horizon is “Wi-Fi.”
Wi-Fi is wireless connection to the Internet that works from a laptop. For the technology to work, a laptop has to be equipped with an adapter which costs between $50 and $100, and must be operated in an area where Wi-Fi is available.
Like the Internet, much of Wi-Fi’s growth is happening in small pockets around the world.
Intel announced recently it was making new semiconductors available that will make Wi-Fi networks possible. Shortly after that, McDonald’s announced it would create Wi-Fi hotspots in 10 Manhattan restaurants.” Unwiring the personal computer will change the way people use computers,” said Intel CEO Craig Barrett in announcing the company’s new Centrino mobile technology. Intel said it has survey results that estimate 118,000 wireless “hot spots” will exist in the U.S. by 2005.
A wireless hot spot is a place where a person turns on his computer and it is automatically connected to the Internet. “That’s the way it’s going to be,” Patrick said. Patrick said one day recently he was in a Subway restaurant in Washington D.C., and his laptop computer connected to the Internet.” I didn’t know who was providing the service. I wasn’t paying for the service. It was just there,” Patrick said. He predicted this will happen across the globe someday. Starbucks announced it was offering Wi-Fi service in 1,000 coffee shops beginning in September 2002, and 2,000 by the end of 2003. Patrick said people dismiss the Wi-Fi idea today, saying it isn’t secure, it isn’t available everywhere and people won’t use it. He pointed out those are the same objections people used 10 years ago when he told them about the Internet.” I’d talk to company presidents years ago, and they’d say to me, “Yeah, yeah. John. Right, it’s going to be huge, but I’ll never do business on the Internet.”