Speaking at the Computer Faire in Johannesburg Tuesday, Dr Hellmuth Broda, Sun Microsystems' Chief Technologist Europe, detailed Sun's vision of how to make money change hands while the Internet changes everything.
According to Broda, Sun has bet 10 percent of its research budget on three things it believes will affect all Internet business models.
First, be prepared for massive scale -- your Web presence must be able to scale up from 50 hits/minute to 50 million hits/minute instantly. Second, expect the integrated stack -- for example, Operating Systems used to come only with a command line interface; now they come with word processor and spreadsheet; in the future they may come with auction software that includes credit card verification systems. Hardware and software functionality will be increasingly bundled together. Third, be prepared for continuous real-time online customers -- self-explanatory but thorny, according to Broda, because no service model currently exists.
"Service" being the operative word; Broda asserts that a business paradigm shift is taking place, with the economy moving from being product centered to service centered. That implies a re-emphasis on people -- Jong Yong Yun, Samsungs chief executive officer, has reportedly said that more value is added at the beginning of the chain (research and innovation) and end of the chain (customization and service) than in the middle (manufacturing and distribution). In other words, humans are more important that products in a service economy.
But what will the Web in this people-centred service economy look like? Broda detailed a prediction by Bill Joy, Sun founder, that the Web is fragmenting into six distinct webs.
First is the traditional Web as we know it.
Second is the entertainment web, a "sit back and enjoy" storytelling Web.
Third is the pervasive computing Web, a Web with minimal human interference where machines talk to machines.
Fourth is the e-commerce Web, where B2B and B2C trade will take place. Broda makes an interesting observation: the future will also contain consumer to business trade (C2B), where consumers get organized and begin making demands on business ("or else we take our business elsewhere"). And keep an eye on dynamic pricing in this arena, he says.
Fifth is the personal communicator Web, the Web you carry with you and use to talk to your friends and that offers services based on your location, profile, surroundings and context.
Sixth and finally is the voice activated Web, which Broda predicts will be our interface with software agents and bots.
If you want to be successful on any of these Webs, Broda recommends your focus turn to these areas: CRM, supplier interaction (extending the enterprise), staff (utilizing and motivating them effectively), sales operations (use catalogue portals that make it easy for users to customize their Web-services), the information base (eliminate "islands of information") and services.
The kinesthetic Broda concluded with the following advice: technology without services is useless; develop for the Net, not for devices; encourage your industry to go the services route; and dot-com your company as soon as possible.