In the week that the Times and Daily Telegraph both fired their wrinkly correspondents Bernard Levin and Peregrine Worsthorne, I will court the same fate by committing the two mortal sins of computer journalism. I will rubbish another journalist's article and confess I do not understand the latest buzzwords.
I recently read a column called "The year of the intranet" which I found totally incomprehensible. It came from the US, so I am not be being beastly to any British colleagues.
The article claims that "Java 2 will offer garbage collection, synchronisation, locking and exception handling" and "native compilers, which will compile machine-independent Java byte codes to persistent machine code." Harrumph.
The author concludes by talking about electronic commerce, (which I do think I know something about after 10 years scribbling about it). He wrote: "Hand in hand with SET (which I do understand) are budding security initiatives involving digital certificates, tunnelling technology, the implementation of Secure/Multipurpose Internet Mail Extension Email clients, smart cards and hardware security tokens, and the next generation of firewalls." Tunnelling technology, I ask you: related to data mining, perhaps?
Does anybody understand what this Yank means by all this? If they do, I resign. My message on intranets is simple and direct: BEWARE.
Consider the origin of the term. The guys who got into Internet technology soon found that the users - impoverished teleworkers like me - were too poor to keep them at the level they were used to. So they turned to fleecing the corporates - that is, people like you - and invented the term intranet.
They commissioned surveys which found that the market for intranets would be four times as large as the Internet market. They did not, of course, mention the old mathematical equation that four times f*** all equals f*** all.
Ignoring this equation, supplier-push is strong. Novell, looking for a slogan to counter Microsoft NT, and get on the intranet bandwagon, has coined intranetware, which makes all its NetWare range compliant with Web technology. A great marketing ploy. Everybody in the corporation can use the same browser interface to whatever underlying network application there is, whether it's an in-house stock-control system, an EIS or a groupware application. And the technology is cheap. Novell managers tell me that customers, fed up with different networking protocols and user-interfaces, are lapping this idea up. The enterprise intranet is round the corner.
But hang on a moment. We've heard much of this before. Remember the promise of open systems and OSI. It never really happened, partly because suppliers in the market at the time would not play ball, and partly because the technology moved on.
It surely will. I have been messing around over the Christmas holiday with Netscape, and, in my geriatric way, don't find the interface wildly friendly. If a company wants to standardise on one enterprise-wide network interface, I suggest they hang on for the next generation of browsers.
In the meantime, they should suck-it-and-see with itsy bitsy intranet applications.
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