The task of co-mingling

History is full of turning points, specific moments in time when events in human history and evolution irreversibly change directions. It can be argued that 2000 was one such turning point with the Sydney Olympics. In the midst of all the flag-waving and accolade throwing over the most successful games ever, the information technology industry is at something of a disadvantage.

Computer professionals can't talk about the most significant IT event of the last 1000 years because the history of modern Information Technology goes back little more than 50 years.

A lot has happened in just 50 years though.

The way individuals and corporations thought of and used computers just 20 years ago and the ways they do so today are as different as night and day. How times have changed. Today, the biggest change is that everyone computes thanks mainly to two technologies -- the PC and the Internet.

If the past is any indication - and if Moore's Law holds - the pace of change will only accelerate. We are continually being told we are now entering a brave new economy, which is having profound effects on whole new industries as well as the companies that operate within themOnline eraThe rise of the Internet is, in my view, the start of this new age because it connects together for the first time, vast numbers of computing and information resources. It is part of a trend that is connecting together everyone and everything and makes standalone computing devices increasingly worthless.

Similarly software integration technologies are also having an impact on the efficiency and effectiveness of IT in the new economy. Overcoming systems incompatibility and information latency within enterprises speeds up operations, making them more efficient and thereby overcoming some of the technological barriers that have plagued the industry for the past 50 years - including the barrier of poor integration between disconnected and incompatible systems.

With every new innovation -- electricity, transportation, technology -- there is always an explosion of new ideas, new startups and applications for patents. New technologies will continue to emerge and the traditional companies will not necessarily invent them.

There will be many new computing technologies that may define the future of e-business but while these will become commoditised, new business models will continue to generate value across the many different technologies.

Look out, look ahead

What's coming in 2001? Can we make 2001 a better year than 2000? Ah, 2000 was the year we realised things were getting harder rather than easier, when only 30 per cent of projects were considered successful, and when more dollars were thrown away on cancelled and problematic projects.

Not to worry, things will change in 2001, so the industry denizens keep telling us. With all respect though to the industry luminaries the predictions are likely to be at least 20 per cent wrong, and some laughably so. The question then becomes, which ones will be right and which wrong? It's not that these people aren't smart, but when it comes to predictions about technology, the whole human race has a rotten track record - for reasons that are, um, quite unpredictable.

Things will fly apart overtime and a lot more industry collapsing is inevitable.

The I-told-you-it-was-bubble-time observers will continue to espouse their theories. Circumstances will then conspire as stuff gets written, accumulates, is believed, exaggerated, repeated and distorted. Assertions circle back to their original asserters and are, in turn, offered up as an "independent validation" of the circumstance. By then it feels so real. And yet…..

Hype therapy

But hype is generally a group activity, despite the illusion of individual thoughts and the subsequent action(s). It involves - writers, readers, analysts and industry players interacting together to inflate often a slim hope or a slight possibility, to market driver proportions.

The IT future is obviously not always obvious and there's no reason to think we can do it any better - we mustn't be smug about it. It's no wonder that "IT weariness" sets in with buyers wondering if it's a waste of time and vendors wondering if it's a waste of money.

A lot has occurred over the past few years that has been just plain confusing and exasperating to the customers - some of these have been portrayed as life or death, winner takes all.

The debate over network computers versus personal computersThe browsers warsThe access provider race, a scramble for a commodityThe language, database and so on and so on.

All without a winner being ever being declared or with many losers being carried off the field.

And now everybody seems to be working on technologies that will enable a world of "pervasive", "inclusive", "transparent" computing in which processing power will be embedded into virtually every manufactured item from alarm clocks to coffee cups and including you and me. This will allow us to be two places at once by sending our "virtual presence" to one meeting while attending another or others!

So don't worry, others tell us, eventually as with electricity we will no longer see technology. The PC won't go away, well not in the foreseeable future, whatever that is. But it will be supplemented by all kinds of new and interesting devices.


Yes, as in the PC world there is a computer for every person, in the future there will be many computing devices for every person. These devices will be able to sustain multiple types of spontaneous interactions simultaneously; speech recognition and language translation on the fly. All devices will be equipped with cameras and biometrics - such as fingerprint and face recognition and, by the way, you'll make phone calls via the cheapest operation, automatically, Wow! Here we go again.

Will it become as IBM has now coined it an "attentive" environment where the devices pay attention to you as well as demanding you pay attention to them?

Hopefully such personalisation and customisation will obviate the ongoing debate about whether we will carry one device or two or more devices that are connected wirelessly. What will enable all this proliferation of devices, though, is bandwidth and lots of it at the right price.

A consultant told me recently, the DNA of the business world is changing. We are now a theory-driven business and our thinking should start by abstracting fundamental theory and then looking at practical applications! The mind boggles!

Of course, the challenge is as always to make it all happen. The new economy is IT-driven, and we therefore cannot tolerate technology barriers that hinder the efficient running of any business. But this is not new; it has been recognised for at least two decades!

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