Joy: Future of the Web is mobile devices

Summary:Want to see where the Web is headed? Bill Joy, Sun co-founder and venture capitalist, says look no further than your cell phone.

CAMBRIDGE, Mass.--Bill Joy is putting his money--or, more accurately, his VC firm's money--on the Web as the platform of the future.

Joy, co-founder of Sun Microsystems and a driving force behind the creation of Berkeley Unix and Java, among other technologies, said the explosion in devices like cell phones, PDAs and other wireless gadgets connected to the Web is radically changing the technology industry.

He calls that phenomenon the "here" Web, because the Internet is always "here, because you access it through a device you always carry." Joy, now a partner with the venture capital firm of Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers, made his remarks at Technology Review's Emerging Technology Conference here Thursday.

It's been more than five years since Joy originally laid out his model of the six ways people interact with the Web, ranging from the "near" Web (a PC at arm's length) to the "D2D" or device-to-device Web, where systems arrange themselves into mesh networks.

"The here Web will be the most important, going forward," Joy said. "People have many devices."

Joy also speculated that such an extended Web will favor companies such as Google that are betting on the Web as the future platform for the most interesting and important software applications.

He indicated that development activity on the current reigning platform--the PC-- is beginning to stagnate. "Maybe Google replaces Microsoft at some point, with the Web as a platform. What are the hot, interesting PC apps? Nobody's saying anything about that."

On his switch to becoming a VC, Joy said, "I'm enjoying Kleiner. It's a more modern organization. Sun was very hierarchical. Kleiner is very flat. We're all peers.

Joy said he believes that the most successful ventures, whether in the technology world or elsewhere, will be those that avoid rigid hierarchies. He used the volatile PC business as an example. "We see that in the open-source world. Organizations that have hierarchical structures won't be able to adapt as quickly as these new companies. Just like when Compaq's network of dealers couldn't compete with Dell's direct model," he said.

On the growing popularity of voice over Internet Protocol technology such as Skype, Joy said there's still plenty of room for improvement. "Personally, I'm very frustrated by voice. If you leave me a voice mail, it's not likely I'll get around to answering it. But there is a warmth to voice. It's a media that has been difficult to integrate with the Web experience. I have a friend who holds his notebook up to his head to use Skype. We need new formats."

Topics: Software

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