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Daily Pennsylvanian – U. Pennsylvania: IBM exec says the Internet will ‘redefine the future’

Monday, November 30, 1998

By David Rosensweig , Daily Pennsylvanian (U. Pennsylvania)

PHILADELPHIA, Penn. — In just a few years, the Internet has gone from being an obscure computer network to something that’s touching millions of people’s everyday lives. So what’s next?

John Patrick , vice president of Internet technology for computer giant International Business Machines Corp., spoke yesterday on how the Internet will “redefine the future” to nearly 150 students in a packed Steinberg-Dietrich Hall room at the University of Pennsylvania.

After predicting that the Internet will have a billion users in the near future, Patrick described how the Internet is going to change the fabric of the world’s economy and society by enabling new realms of commerce, content and communication.”This is what I think the future is all about,” he said.

Patrick works as the top strategist for Internet technologies, which includes bringing together all Internet-related activities across IBM ‘s departments. He warned that companies should not “be inwardly focused” and instead must embrace Internet technologies because of “velocity.”

“Speed is everything,” he said.

Patrick described the importance of “e-Business,” an IBM trademark which he said refers to tying together the entire business process — from communication and collaboration among employees to production and supply-chain systems and finally to the World Wide Web-based sale to the consumer.

He emphasized this holistic embrace of Internet technologies instead of simply “e-commerce,” which he described as referring narrowly to on-line shopping.

In addition to business implications, Patrick talked about a Jetsons-like future where the Internet will enable “ease-of-life” improvements such as ubiquitous e-mail, on-line chatting, Internet voice communication, distance-learning and better multicultural appreciation.

To demonstrate this “reaching across borders,” Patrick sent an English text message to an “IBMer” in Germany instantaneously. The receiver’s computer not only translated the message into German, but “read” it aloud as well. The German user then replied, and Patrick ‘s computer again translated the message.

“Rather than thinking about limited boundaries, physical boundaries” people are connected in milliseconds, he explained.

Patrick then demonstrated an “MP3-man,” a Walkman-like device that plays sound files in the popular MP3 format and “never skips and has no moving parts.” MP3, or MPEG-1 Layer 3, is a file format that allows near-CD-quality music to be distributed easily over the Internet.

Referring to recent legal action taken by the music industry to halt production of MP3 players, Patrick said, “This is people clinging to the old.” He recommended the industry instead embrace MP3s and implement pay-as-you-listen solutions.

Several students in the audience said they were thrilled by Patrick ‘s vision of the future.

“It’s a very exciting and promising future,” Engineering senior Gary Liu said.

“I thought it was incredible,” College senior Vicki Beyda added. “I want to go out and work for him. There are no limits.”