Magazine article Information Today

1996 Spring Internet World-San Jose

Magazine article Information Today

1996 Spring Internet World-San Jose

Article excerpt

I have been connecting to academic systems via the Internet for nearly 10 years. During that time, the nature of the network has changed dramatically. Never have I been more aware of that change than at the Spring Internet World in San Jose.

The Conference

First of all, there was the sheer size of the conference. By the last day, there had been 40,000 people at Internet World, according to Bob Miko, public relations director for Mecklermedia. The exhibits filled the San Jose Convention Center, a large tent next to the Convention Center, and the San Jose Civic Center. There was a long list of businesses that wanted to exhibit but couldn't for lack of space. (Next spring, the conference will be held at the Los Angeles Convention Center so more people and exhibits can be accommodated.)

Although there were academics, librarians, and other nonprofit users like me at the conference, the emphasis was heavily on products and services for the commercial sector. The buzzword for the conference was "intranet." More on that later.

The first keynote speaker of the conference was Bill Joy, founder of Sun Microsystems. Joy is a techie at heart. His hair was awry, his clothes casual, but he was the first because he has Java. And if there was a star at this conference, it was Java. In his keynote address, Joy announced that Apple Computer, Inc.; Hewlett-Packard Company; Hitachi, Ltd.; International Business Machines Corporation; Microsoft Corporation; Novell, Inc.; Silicon Graphics, Inc.; SunSoft; The Santa Cruz Operation, Inc.; and Tandem Computers Incorporated all intend to license and incorporate the Java Virtual Machine and Java Class Libraries into their operating systems. The likely result of this will be faster and more consistent execution of Java scripts on machines running the operating systems produced by those companies.

The sheer number of Java development tools and announcements suggests the immense potential that product managers and software developers envision for this new language. It's more than just a tool for animating or jazzing up your Web pages. The real potential is in its ability to create front ends (or clients) for client/server systems that are distributed via the Internet. A database vendor, for instance, can create a client that incorporates a specialized user interface for its client/server system and distribute it via the Net, without having to distribute diskettes to its customers. Changes and improvements can be made continuously without sending out new diskettes. In addition, the vendor doesn't have to deal with multiple versions for Windows, Macintosh, and UNIX platforms. Companies like Spider Technologies and NeXT are capitalizing on the excitement about Java by marketing new development tools that make it easy to create Java applications-without doing too much programming.

Larry Ellison of Oracle spoke on Tuesday afternoon and demonstrated a couple of prototype network computers or NCs. These small computers will have fast processors and small operating systems, but no permanent storage. Software will be loaded off a network server so updates can occur on an ongoing basis without disruption. All permanent storage will also be on the server where it can be professionally backed up and maintained. The advantages are very low cost-$500 or so-and ease of use. The disadvantages involve loss of control and independence by the end user.

Of the keynote speakers I heard at Internet world-there were, in fact, seven keynote speakers-it was only Tim Krauskopf of Spyglass who managed to take the high road and promote something other than his company or products. Krauskopf proposed that strong standards make markets, that the stronger a standard is, the more quickly the market that it supports can grow. Companies that support strong, open standards may lose market share, but they are likely to more than make up for it in overall sales. He cited the example of the VCR market with its fight between Sony's BetaMax and the VHS standard. …

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