The internet will end poverty, proclaimed Philippe Kahn, founder of Inprise/Borland during his tongue-in-cheek keynote at the Internet Everywhere conference in San Francisco this week.
He said that if the internet business model of giving content away for free as long as consumers agreed to look at advertisements was taken up by supermarket chains, "everyone would soon be able to live for free".
Kahn, who since leaving Inprise/Borland has set up several internet startups, spent most of his time on stage promoting his new love, wireless communications.
He argued that the internet is far from ubiquitous, lamenting that it is not as easy for travellers to guarantee constant connectivity as it is choosing which clothes to wear each morning. To stay connected people have to decide whether their laptops, modems, pagers or mobile phones will work at the user's destination.
"The internet is a great subversive force that allows people to escape from their Dilbert cubicles during the day. But the more the internet is bound to the PC, the more people are bound to their cubicles," he argued. "There is no other way but to go where the information is - in your cubicle or on your PC at home."
He said building an extended wireless infrastructure is one solution, but that is a challenge in North America because it has a greater rural mass where it may not be attractive for mobile phone operators to add coverage. "North America will always be behind Europe because Europe is a more urbanised part of the world," he explained.
Kahn believes that the internet could evoke emotion if it could be with people wherever they travel - for example, if people could take pictures of wherever they are and use wireless technology to instantly beam them to friends.
He said: "When you're on the internet in your cubicle, you're escaping from that cubicle but you aren't carrying that emotion with you. It's not like you're on top of the Acropolis and you're sharing that moment with many others. When you're downloading MP3 music files, you're consuming, you're not making emotion. That is not reporting from the field."
Kahn was promoting the wireless technology of his latest startup, Lightsurf, which was launched last month. It is developing technology to enable people to take images from their digital cameras or mobile phones and send them to other wireless devices.
He has been a high-profile advocate of wireless technology in recent years and in 1994 set up Starfish, which sells software that synchronises information from a variety of wireless sources. He is also chairman of wireless messaging specialist Opengrid, and is an advisor to Motorola.
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