Collaborative information technology is already changing the world in dramatic ways, but even greater changes are on the horizon. Some of the threats and opportunities were explored in depth at the recent Supernova conference co-sponsored by the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in San Francisco. Wharton collaborated with CNET to provide this summary of the conference.
Other visionaries at the conference, such as Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce.com, sees more widespread adoption of the on-demand model, similar to what his company is doing. Over time, computing will be increasingly simplified as business services are no longer maintained in-house on expensive platforms, but instead delivered over the Internet, on-demand, as Web pages, in a trend called "e-sourcing," Benioff elaborated. There are hundreds and hundreds of niche applications similar to what Salesforce.com offers, according to Benioff. "This is really the 'long tail' of business applications and we're creating a platform to power it. The next step is to have customers not only creating but also sharing their work, to expand the overall ecosystem of applications. That's about as far from proprietary software as you can get."
We're moving out of the "Information Age" and into the "Participation Age," Jonathan Swartz, president of Sun Microsystems, observes. "We're entering an era in which people are participating rather than just receiving information. The PC revolution has been about empowering users and consumers; now the enterprise has to take them and their new tools into consideration in new ways. Instead of just connecting India to the network, India will now actually participate in creating market opportunities. And, a billion people with cell phones are going to have a massive impact on the IT enterprise."
"You will really work on the network, not in the office," said Hossein Eslambolchi, president of AT&T's Global Networking Technology Services. "And since the network could be anywhere, it constitutes a virtual office." The telecommuting trend will accelerate as a result of the convergence of voice, data and text in mobile devices -- laptops, PDAs, cell phones -- where they will operate based on software applications collaborating seamlessly, without effort on the user's part. Supporting such collaborative work will be an intelligent computer network in the center -- "the basis for everything" -- with equally 'smart' devices such as phones and computers at the edge.