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Digital Frontier '99
Pictures from the Conference
by Rick Smith (January 23, 1999)

A Futurist's Forum

The 1999 Digital Frontier Conference is being held at the J.L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois


Paul Carroll, moderator of Futurist's Forum and Editor-in-Chief or Context Magazine.


Vickie Abrahamson, founder of Iconoculture


Ed Black, President, Computer and Communication Industry Association


John Gage, Chief Scientist, Sun Microsystems


Joe Schoendorf, Executive Partner, Accel Partners, displays Motorola's new Iridium satellite telephone.


Peter Schwartz, Chairman, Global Business Network

A Futurist's Forum was a rather eclectic look at the future from several people that have spent most of their lifetimes in the computer industry.

Initially, this event started out by determining how Sears Roebuck, a major retailer, could transform itself to keep from being attacked from a small startup company. In responding to this problem, there were several fascinating perspectives from many of the panel members. Here is a brief look at some of them:

Schoendorf felt that the "buggy whip" of the 21st Century will be downtown office buildings and shopping malls. He went on to describe that the current class graduating from business college were born in the late seventies and have NEVER known a world without a computer! He also felt that most change doesn't come from within - it comes from "without" (company culture changes from external forces). He also showed us "his new toy" - Motorola's new Iridium telephone, which lets you make calls from every corner of the world, including the polar regions! All it takes is a call to a 12 digit "telephone" number. But he also mentioned that the registration support service closes at 7PM CST, which demonstrates how this new 24x7 future will impact American business.

Gage also pointed out that most 12 to 14 year olds know something important (computer technology) better than other adults and especially their teachers. This is the first time in history that this ever happened. He also pointed out that although you and I are connected, there are only 750 million telephones for the world and 2 billion adults cannot provide clean water for their children. He felt the real question was how do we change the world with our technology?

Schwartz talked about a future (6 years from now) when 270 low-earth satellites will provide broadband access to 100% of the earth. Now everyone on earth could be on the Internet! (Wonder what response will be like) He also feels that by 2010 the human lifespan will increase to 150 years and cancer will disappear.

Abrahamson felt that "beehives" (centers of passion) will be formed on the Net. Marketers who can take advantage of this social behavior will win.

Several questions that were posed during the panel were:

What will be the language of the Web as 1.2 billion Chinese come online?

What happens when one million Chinese begin writing Java code?

There also was a discussion of why DEC (Digital Equipment Corporation) went away (It was felt that they failed to sense a market change and react to that change, a platform shift, and a once mighty company became irrelevant.)

Most of the panel members agreed that small companies have one critical advantage over larger companies - SPEED. The CEO and other key execs can change the direction of a small company over lunch, while a large company make take months or even years to react.

So here's to entrepreneurship!

Related links:

1998 Digital Frontier Conference Keynote

Official Digital Frontier 99 site

Copyright 1999 Rick Smith All rights reserved.

   
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