Tech Execs Give Hint of Future
WASHINGTON -- Technology of the near future could place radio-frequency identification in grocery store items and make it easier to move information from paper to computer chips, say the executives whose firms are developing such advances.
Innovation using the Internet and wireless services as platforms will be key for the survival of information technology in decades to come, said the panel of chief executive officers of technology companies. CNN's Lou Dobbs moderated the presentation at the Business Software Alliance's Global Tech Summit here Thursday.
What to Watch For
Wireless connectivity will be de facto, security will be part of most applications, and spam will be--if not cured--widely loathed and fought, the executives suggested.
"Our kids will not know wired computers like we do today," said Dale Fuller, president and CEO of Borland Software.
Panelists shared their dreams of technology, such as using RF IDs to take retail inventory, and software that finds prepublication errors in computer code. But the discussion bogged down when Dobbs raised the topic of problems with current technologies, notably spam.
An electronic poll of the audience and a video showed that consumers are fed up with unsolicited electronic contact. Still, the number of solutions offered was small.
Entrust President and CEO Bill Conner suggested a tax on bulk e-mail. Taking the hint, Borland's Fuller observed that a 10-cent tax on all e-mail could solve his state's budget deficit. A few panelists wished for an e-mail version of the "Do Not Call" registry. But questions regarding the process of filtering remained.
"Obviously, we haven't solved this problem yet," Dobbs said.
Tech for Defense
Another problem, highlighted at a luncheon speech by Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, is cyberspace security and the integration of the cyberworld into physical security operations.
"You really can't talk about infrastructure in this country anymore as if physical and cyber are separate," Ridge told the technology company executives.
One of the largest roles for the information technology industry in homeland security is dissemination of information, Ridge said. He is particularly looking for their help in distributing information published on the federal level to state and local authorities. During this summer's East Coast blackout, crisis teams from his department helped keep officials informed, he said.
"We could give the president and everyone else involved in the blackout a total situational awareness," Ridge said. "As that information came to us, we could share it with everybody else."
Increased availability of information, however, is a threat to U.S. security, Ridge said. He suggests corporations be required to disclose physical and cybersecurity measures to shareholders and to the communities where they operate.
Ridge's emphasis on integrating information technology into homeland security, however, was just one side of the give-and-take here between federal officials and the visiting CEOs.
A priority for the tech executives is increased policing of piracy at home and abroad. The United States loses thousands of jobs and billions of dollars each year to pirated software, the corporation heads said.
Concerns about piracy came the same day that Intuit apologized to its TurboTax customers, who were frustrated by the program's single-computer registration policy. Intuit representatives say they intended only to prevent piracy, but the move to registration remains the source of a class-action lawsuit against the company.
Still, other software companies are experimenting with their own antipiracy technology.
Bruce Chizen, CEO of Adobe Systems, said the next version of Photoshop will limit registrations per copy. It will not impose single-computer restrictions because of feedback from customers.
"We're trying to come up with a way to get them to pay for it, so we can continue to innovate in the future," Chizen said.
Under Borland's policy, customers must register and obtain a key from the company for their copy of the software to work. Software can be registered as many times as a user wants as long as a key is obtained each time, Fuller said.
But "those aren't the people we're worried about, honestly," Fuller added. The real adversaries in piracy are those people who obtain illegal copies of the software--occasionally with a pirated key--and then sell the copies cheaply.
"Those are the guys I worry about. Not because they're selling it for $5, [but] because they're making money off me, off my intellectual property--and that's harmful to me," he said. "Those are the things that are actually stealing jobs from us here in the United States."