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Monday, October 27, 2003

Coming Home to Roost

Interesting piece in the NYT about the growing rivalry between IBM and Microsoft. E-week also has a timely piece about how the pressure is on MS to get Longhorn right, or the corporate sector might finally give up on them. In a way, vis-a-vis all the security problems they have, it's hard not to feel a bit of sympathy for them. Essentially this is a negative feedback consequence of being No1 and being so disliked (of course the so-disliked bit is of their own making). The consequence produces a whole host of people who spend a good part of their time looking for 'holes', and of course they find them. This is not simply MS incompetence, it seems to be an endemic software problem. It's just that most companies don't have so many bright and dedicated people working against them. There is a kind of strange 'I need you', 'you need me' symbiosis between the parties which is rather reminiscent of the one beteen bacteria and antibiotic.

ONE year ago, almost to the day, Samuel J. Palmisano, the chief executive of I.B.M., delivered a speech in New York that sketched his company's vision of the future of computing, which he called "on-demand computing." Today in Los Angeles, Bill Gates, the chairman of the Microsoft Corporation, will present his company's notion of where things are headed, which the software maker calls "seamless computing."

Behind the marketing shorthand is a kind of war of ideas over what can be thought of as "the Internet, Act II," a technological evolution that has been gathering speed. The next-generation development of the Internet has been helped by the continuing and remarkable progress in hardware. But probably more important has been the embrace of a set of software standards - rendered in a nerdy alphabet soup of acronyms, like XML, SOAP, WSDL, UDDI and so on - that open the door to widespread machine-to-machine communication across the Internet.

Over the last couple of years, I.B.M. and Microsoft have cooperated closely to reach agreement on the software standards, known as Web services, necessary for this next step. The two companies, however, agree on little else. The Internet Act I was mainly about e-mail programs and downloading digital information to look at or listen to - Web pages, animations, video and music. Act II should bring all kinds of automated transactions among businesses and individuals. And those transactions will be able to include a hint of computer-aided intelligence.

An example could be arranging an appointment with your dentist. Your calendar information, with stated time preferences and availability, exchanges data with your dentist's calendar to automatically set up an appointment. Similarly, companies should someday be able to conduct computer-automated auctions with suppliers. The next-generation Internet can be thought of as the beginning of what researchers have said might be possible with software agents, or bots, performing as human assistants.
Source: New York Times

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