If ever there was a place that epitomised the land of the blind, the computer business is it. Legions of one-eyed men tirelessly line up to declare their visions of significant things about to happen, and the cry of “wolf” echoes through the industry.
One of the most popular and perennial calls of the past twenty years of IT has been the prospect that "communications" will revolutionise anything it touches. Whilst this is actually at last true, the fact that this call was being made when dinosaurs and 300 baud modems ruled the earth means that there are many professionals within the industry who have grown dangerously immune to the idea.
Hence the Internet has crept up to deliver what the one-eyed men of all walks of life have been declaring to be a revolution in everything from home-working to the way governments operate and interact with their voters.
1994 breezed in with the World Wide Web in its infancy, with just a single wobbly alpha release of Mosaic to tap into its resources. But it only took even the most cynical commsophobe a couple of minutes of browsing the world wide web to realize that Something Big was happening.
1994 blows out with at least 6 web browsers at various stages of marketability, with the race to supply the burgeoning demand for Internet access and bandwidth. A couple of browser developers are actually taking money, and much more is promised, real soon now.
1995 will be even more exciting; and real money (albeit implemented in a virtual manner...) will start to change hands in a big way for Internet related products and services.
The gap between the hype and the reality will be closing fast, and it is all the more vital that all businesses that propose to be around in 5 years time accept that the Internet may not be the ultimate manifestation of the "on-line" Society, but it’s a great place to start to learn the principles that lead to that end.
The Microsoft Network, as first seen at Comdex, should not be confused with the Internet. There are many superficial similarities, but like so much of what Microsoft has done to and for the personal computer industry, there are many agendas going on here; and only a few of them are likely to be visible at this time.
The Microsoft Network is entirely proprietary to Microsoft, and is set to form a large part of the company’s effort to draw their users ever closer to total reliance on the Good Lord Gates as the fount of all knowledge, software products and succour.
And there will be great benefits for those who join the Church of Gates, culminating in eternal salvation in a land flowing with milk, honey, information at the fingertips etc. But are these disciples offering their souls up for everlasting salvation -- or pledging them to Beelzebub incarnate?
There is a certain attraction to the notion that if Bill Gates sets his sights on something in on something, than verily, it will come to pass.
Gates has almost single-handedly elevated the status of the computer nerd to a state of social aspiration amongst the monied classes of the US. He has the ear of the world’s movers and shakers, and he has had the desktop computer industry by the soft dangly bits for nearly a decade. An irresistible combination of factors in the pursuit of power and influence if ever there was. He now apparently also has the makings of a virtual world banking system through his various acquisitions and liaisons in credit and finance.
Gates is an impatient man, and he quite rightly believes that he can get on and achieve his vision of heaven on earth far more readily on his own terms, than with the Open Systems fraternity and their posturing executives and endless committees forever hanging around his neck.
I have no time for the blather that appears in the popular press about Gates inventing BASIC, and generally attributing every invention in computing to his name. However, I find myself increasingly willing to watch him progress to world domination, just to see all this getting done. Is that milk and honey we can smell... or the unmistakable odour of sulphur...?wsp
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