The Internet is not the next computing revolution, but a trend that has been stage managed by the IT industry primarily to hit out at Microsoft. This was the controversial theme of a keynote speech from Mitch Kerzman, chairman and co-CEO of Sybase, opening the IT Forum event in San Francisco this week.
Kerzman condemned the computer industry for fighting ?geopolitical wars? rather than focusing on the interests of customers, claiming many vendors are pushing the Internet solely for their own political reasons.
Kerzman made a plea for ?customer centric computing? in one of the most hig profile speeches he has made, reflecting his changed role at the database company. Since February, Sybase has had two men sharing the CEO title: Kerzman and John Chen, the idea being for Chen to handle day to day management of the company, while Kerzman would assume a more public role. He did that on Tuesday with his opening keynote.
In his speech, he compared the behaviour of the computer industry to modern politics. Like modern day (US politicians, he said, vendors are attacking their competitors' ideas, rather than focusing on their customers? (or voters?) needs. And, as in geopolitical warfare, a small number of large players are fighting for control of the market ? with customers caught in the middle.
?A lot of what is being done, is done to bring down one of the players," Kerzman said. He referred specifically to the Internet, suggesting that many vendors are merely pushing the Internet paradigm to hurt Microsoft. But he also singled out Windows 98, which he said offers little or no added benefit to the user over its predecessor.
Kerzman challenged the notion that the Internet is the next platform shift in the computing industry. He remarked that previous platform shifts have tended to end the dominance of one player, while bringing another vendor to the foreground - for instance, the move from mainframes to minis led to the demise of mainframe software players like Cullinet, and the rise of Oracle. The move from MS-Dos to Windows tripped up Lotus and made Microsoft the number one PC software vendor.
Another typical feature of a platform shift, said Kerzman, is that we only observe it after it has happened. The Internet revolution, by contrast, was pre-announced and even ?managed? by a number of major players, intent on displacing another player ? Microsoft. And, unlike previous platform shifts, the dominant company has remained in place. Other big players, like IBM, have also adapted to the Internet, Kerzman remarks.
?The Internet looks a lot more like an extension of distributed computing, rather than a revolution," he concluded.
However, he did not dismiss the Net's impact, but feels it has been taken up in the wrong quarters. ?The Internet is more of a revolution in communications than in computing," he pointed out.
Kerzman said the challenge for IT vendors ? as well as for IT users - is to use the Internet to get closer to customers, what he calls customer centric computing.
Using IT to automate production or other processes no longer provides companies with a competitive advantage, Kerzman said, because their competitors have similar systems. ?It used to be that you could get a competitive advantage out of the quality of your MRP implementation," Kerzman noted. Now, he noted, many companies are buying packages rather than developing their own software, and are even outsourcing their systems.
?The question arises: where can we use IT to get a competitive advantage? Where is the next frontier?," he asked, suggesting that the answer lies in customer centric computing. Companies can achieve this by automating the task of people in direct contact with customers (such as helpdesks and call centres), and using the Internet to automate interaction with customers.
?We haven?t even scratched the surface of ways of using IT to get closer to customers," said Kerzman, claiming this is the way to obtaining customer loyalty.
He pointed to burger giant McDonalds as an example of limited progress in this area. McDonalds does not provide any means for customer feedback on its Web site, he said, so there is no way to complain about the company's service via the Web. ?That told me something about McDonalds," he added.
By contrast, he praised the online bookstore Amazon.com for creating an online community that provides services a traditional bookshop cannot offer.
In another example, Kerzman said he sent a question by email to Netscape?s online technical support service. ?It?s been three weeks, but all I?ve received is an automated response saying they would get back to me in 24 hours," he complained.
Kerzman contrasted Netscape?s free online support to Microsoft?s fee-based system, which he finds better. ?I dearly love Netscape, and those of you who read the papers know I have been a vocal critic of Microsoft, but look at the difference," he said.
IBM and Technical University of Munich team demonstrate how Shor's algorithm, which can't be cracked by conventional computers, can be solved quickly with quantum computing
Hubble Space Telescope finds superflares from young red dwarfs could strip away planetary atmosphere
Younger stars are 100 to 1,000 times more energetic than when they're older
Two of the big four supermarkets will use the system to control sales of restricted products
PUBG news and updates: November's Update #23 to bring new Skorpion pistol and changes to blue zone visibility
Genuinely useful side-arm coming to PUBG in Update #23