TECH TALK: The Years That Were: 1995 (Part 2)

Business Weeks June 26, 1995 issue carried its first Annual Report on Information Technology. The theme was the Networked Corporation. Wrote Business Week:

Even though networks are pervasive, the benefits they promise are maddeningly elusive. The technology is here. The problem is not with the technology , but with corporate processes. Companies must fundamentally change the way they do business, and thats hard, says Daniel Shubert of EDS.

Getting the most out of the network means giving up control. A key difference between companies that makes the net work for them and those that dont is their approach to information. Until a company is willing to share information with workers at the sales counter or the shop floor, the most sophisticated network technologies wont help the bottom line.

An excerpt from a story on the Internet and business attitudes towards it in the same issue:

More than 25 million people will have access to the Internet by the end of this year, a more than tenfold increase from 1990, says Yankee Group. The primary driver of this explosion of Net surfers is not interest in the Internets educational offerings or even its famous (or infamous) chat areas. Today, the Net is being overrun by the business world. Yankee estimates that 21,000 businesses are connected to the Internet. Today, more than 75% of all new users are logging on via corporate connections.

Even in the midst of this rush, however, business executives and information systems managers keep asking the same question: What exactly will the Internet do for me? Right now, companies are pretty much still kicking the tires of the Internet, says Stephen Franco, a Yankee Group consultant. Theyre not completely comfortable with it. The companies hooking up to the Net are using it primarily for communications.

Forbes ASAP (August 28, 1995) had Marc Andressen on the cover as the kid who could topple Bill Gates, according to George Gilder. The coming software shift, according to Gilder, was because of the browser and Java. He wrote:

Dynamically portable programs are suitable for a nomadic existence on the Net, rather than a mere settled life on the desktop. Java emancipates software from computer architecture. It offers a software paradigm radically different from the Microsoft model, which is based not only on static compilation, but also on often-concealed, proprietary source code.

Suddenly, the entire world of new software is potentially available to every computer owner. Rather then being restricted to the set of programs you own, you can use any program on the Net, just as you can now tap any information on the Net.

Owning the operating system and associated tool libraries becomes irrelevant to selling applications. Owning the application or channel becomes irrelevant to selling the content. To the extent that Java or a similar language prevails, software becomes truly open for the first time. The Microsoft desktop becomes a commodity; the Intel microprocessor becomes peripheral the key microprocessor is the software code, the Java interpreter.

The computer hollows out, and you are no longer concerned with its idiosyncrasies, its operating system, its instruction set, even its resident applications. Instead, you can focus on the content on the world, rather than on the desktop architecture.

Your computer will never be the same again. No longer will the features of the desktop decide the features of the machine. No longer will the size of your hard drive or the database of your LAN server determine the reach of your information processing. No longer will the programs in your machine determine the functions you can perform. The network is the computer. The computer becomes a peripheral to the Internet and the Web.

Tomorrow: 1996

The Years That Were T

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.