IBM chose not to exhibit at this year's Telecom '99 event in Geneva, Switzerland, but that didn't stop its chairman, Louis Gertsner, from appearing as a keynote speaker and taking a few shots at Microsoft and the Federal Communications Commission.
In a rambling address that basically applauded the telecom industry for its role in connecting the world to the Internet, Gerstner also chided Microsoft for investing in the cable TV industry and called on the FCC to remove regulations from telephone companies and free them to pursue more business opportunities.
He mentioned neither entity by name, however, making only general references to "computer companies that invest in cable operators" and to regulators in general.
"Outsiders" like computer companies have no business investing in network infrastructure, Gertsner said, in part because it sends the wrong signals to the companies investing in building the telecom infrastructure.
Telephone companies are "deeply concerned" about basic dial tone and Web tone becoming commodity items, Gertsner said. Microsoft's move into cable investments only heightens those concerns. "What's stopping them [computer companies investing in network operators] from making phone service part of their bundled offering?" he asked.
Leaders of undeveloped countries need to make getting Internet connections a priority, Gertsner added.
IBM had exhibited at past Telecom events, but canceled this year's exhibit, although the company did retain its space at the Holiday Inn next door to the Palexpo exhibit center and is conducting meetings there.