Organised jointly by EurOpen and UniForum, Open Forum ’92 has turned out to be a successor to the old European Unix User Group conferences of the past, with a high proportion of technical attendees. This was most evident in the two keynote speeches. Dr J Majo Cruzate, Advisor, Director General, DG XIII at the Commission […]
Organised jointly by EurOpen and UniForum, Open Forum ’92 has turned out to be a successor to the old European Unix User Group conferences of the past, with a high proportion of technical attendees. This was most evident in the two keynote speeches. Dr J Majo Cruzate, Advisor, Director General, DG XIII at the Commission of the European Communities, outlined the history of the European Single Market initiative up to Maastricht and (probably) beyond, and went on to extol the virtues of creating a single market for information technology in Europe, with the European Commission’s role seen as harmonising standards efforts and funding research. Europe’s trade deficit in computers with Japan and the US, now coming up to $40,000m (almost equally distributed) was described as a crisis. In general, Cruzate said that the information technology sector was reaching maturity, and that, as a consequence, global demand was slowing. In my opinion, there is a paradox in that the information technology industry is still in the process of accelerating the technology faster than the pull of the market. There will be a reduction in the rate of technology change over the next few years to reflect the reality of the market. So spoke the voice of business. But second keynoter Dr Arno Penzias, vice-president of Research at AT&T Co’s Bell Laboratories, who besides being a Nobel prize winner has the additional claim to fame of being the boss of Unix creators Ken Thomson and Dennis Ritchie, disagreed. Demands will not slow down – they will get more interesting. Customers will continue to ask for more – maybe not for higher prices. We are in the middle of a strategic information revolution where the value of information is recognised. Penzias claims that the technology enablers for such a revolution, which will lead to a major business shakeout, are only now emerging. He identified these enablers as the capturing of the necessary information, the conversion of it into something that’s useful – the big advances in language translation systems recently, protecting information with better security, and information-sharing through video conferencing and shared space. Cruzate’s more pessimistic view was less well received than Penzias’ more technically-exciting world, but it represented at least a small dose of reality injected into some technical ivory towers.