Preaching the Integration Gospel

NEW YORK — The emergence of breakthrough technologies that integrate
Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), Wi-Fi, instant messaging and wireless
transactions will speed up the growth of the
Internet into a faster, more versatile and secure communications
infrastructure.

That’s the message from former IBM executive and Internet visionary John
Patrick, who believes the next generation of the Internet will offer a
super-speed network that is secure, always-on, everywhere, easy-to-use,
intelligent and trusted.

Delivering a keynote address at Jupitermedia’s inaugural Internet Planet Conference & Expo
here, Patrick insisted that security and privacy on the
Internet will be achieved at all levels once businesses figure out the true
strength and power of the platform.

Patrick, who currently serves as president of Attitude, LLC, said the
lack of integration to handle simple customer service queries was a major
deterrent to the growth of the Internet. “After all these decades of the
Internet, e-mail is still the killer app. And the reality is that e-mails
still go unanswered. The absence of integration between things on the Web
is the reason we’ve only tapped into 5 percent of the value of the
Internet,” Patrick said.

The former VP of Internet Technology at IBM
praised auction giant eBay for nailing the concept of
true Web integration.

“eBay is an easy way to talk about this concept of
real integration. They formed a community around buyers and sellers and
they’ve thought it through from the beginning to the end. They have figured
out the business process at every stage of the auction process, and that’s
the reason they are so successful.

“That’s what we need in every industry. We need true integration at all
levels to take advantage of what the Internet already offers. But, more
often we find a travel site that directs users to call a help desk from a
regular telephone instead of using the Web to handle simple customer service
queries.

“We have a major telephone company introducing a new pricing plan and
they have an ‘Order Online’ button. But, when you click on that button,
they give you a phone number to call. It’s a generic problem I’m seeing in
e-commerce and even at the online banks,” Patrick added.

He said the Internet presented an enormous opportunity to simplify
everyday lives and called on companies to make a “true commitment” to
building a true integrated Internet.

Patrick dismissed doubters and naysayers who talk of another “Internet
bubble,” insisting that the dot-com bust of the late 1990s was more the
result of bad business plans than a weakness in the
Internet.

“Yes, there was a bubble that broke. But frankly, it really had
nothing to do with the Internet. When pets.com failed, that had nothing to
do with the Internet. That had more to do with
people who thought they could make water run uphill.”

Patrick, who was a founding member of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)
and now serves as chairman of the Global Internet Project, sees a future
with high-speed connections at the rate of 45 million bits/second, once the
industry is deregulated and taken out of the
hands of politicians and lobbyists.

“In terms of broadband speeds, the U.S. is number 10 in the world. But,
I’m optimistic because of competition.

“The sleeper here is the power grid, offering broadband over power lines.
You can get a power line modem in many parts of the U.S. Plug it into the
wall, plug a LAN into it and you’re connected. It’s going to be more cost
effective than cable or DSL, and this will be an enormously powerful
opportunity.”

He said the unanimous FCC vote in favor of researching the use of power
lines to deliver broadband “will heat up competition” and lead to faster
speeds and lower prices.

Once the speed barrier is broken, Patrick sees a future of wireless
connectivity that will allow people to connect to items in their homes from
a handheld device.

“It’s really not rocket science.
It’s about using the Internet as the underlying communications mechanism for
everything. You will be able to open and close your garage door from your
cell phone because of the power of the Internet.”

He identified VoIP as another technology
that will help spur integration.

“We’re already seeing it with Skype, where
the kids are integrating instant messaging with voice. They’re implementing
VoIP in the context of IM and the quality they have achieved is
amazing.”

Patrick also singled out Wi-Fi as a significant standard that extends the
“everywhere” concept.

“There are doubts about the right business model for
Wi-Fi, but there’s no doubt about the value. Wi-Fi is significant, and not just
for Starbucks. It’s about connectivity everywhere you have to
wait … connectivity at the doctor’s office or at Jiffy Lube.

“If you have two devices and they both follow the 802.11 standard, they
can talk to each other. That’s not true about cell phones with the
providers/operators who stand in the middle. 802.11 has no operators and
that’s the true power in it.”

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