Portal Technology and Next Generation Operating Systems
Michael K. Kato
Many companies are currently developing Enterprise Information Portal (EIP) development solutions that enable people to create Vertical Information Portals (VIP) and Personal Information Portals (PIP) through a modular approach. All of these portals are just ways of looking at information and (software) tools, organizing them, and providing people access to the information and services that make it possible for people to do business. Like the current computer desktop, as the front end to Windows, Macintosh, or Linux, the Internet Portal can be a desktop to all of the main information, tools, and services that a person uses.
The Portal can be understood, then, simply as a window, gateway, or browser to a person's electronic world. Starting with news and information that is grabbed and updated via the Internet, adding to the portal an interface to communication tools, including email, fax, phone, chat, or any other communications tool, placing a conduit to all of one's documents and things retained in storage, and, finally, a method to access the various tools and services--mostly software--to create, modify, and utilize documents, and, soon, the portal becomes transformed into a full desktop. All of the components could reside in some online or networked storage, saved in multiple components and encrypted so that the whole cannot be retrieved from one location, or the components could reside on a local drive or system and only the services that need to could access an outside network or the Internet as a whole. Or, more likely, the portal could utilize a combination of the two.
In any case, the Portal then can now be thought of as a new kind of operating system, a desktop, a way of accessing data, documents, tools, and services. Since the desktop itself is a way of viewing everything, it should easily be modified for access by any device, from any location, at any time. While some information, documents, and tools are not easily usable on some devices, there may be some limitations to how the desktop provides access from device to device; a person should be able to access the availability of content and services always. From a mobile phone, for example, a person should be able to add a service, such as photo editing capability, to his desktop, so that he can easily modify the images he captures via his camera-equipped phone when he returns to his desk the next day.
I believe that virtually any company or organization can benefit directly by the implementation of portal technology and the utilization of next generation operating systems. But I will give some concrete examples to illustrate this.
One type of company that could easily benefit would be an airline, travel agency, or related firm. The Portal created by a JAL, JTB, or some other such firm would contain many components. Calendars, weather information, news, event information, ticket price campaigns, and many other such components should be available. A visitor to this portal would be able to set up their Internet desktop, by moving and configuring some icons and other simple elements. The visitor could have a calendar, that shows not only her regular schedules, but also her vacation time availability, and some simple chart that shows something like stress level or need for rest and relaxation. The desktop would also have news and information about a particular location or destination of interest, such as the weather in Honolulu. The interface would provide special information about campaigns to Hawaii, and events and other information about classes, services, or other things the islands may offer. The data would, of course, be linked to ticket purchasing and reservation systems, as well as to the vacation request systems as required by the person's company. Also, the calendar could be linked to the calendar/schedule or the person's boyfriend, spouse, or child.
Another corporate example could be a sports club. The sports club would want to provide a calendar, which tracks not only the person's regular schedule, but also things like the person's diet and exercise routine for each day. It would include things like walking up and down three flights of stairs instead of taking the elevator, or riding a bicycle to the station instead of taking a bus. The portal would also contain news feeds on health, fitness, relaxation, or other related topics. The person could add a discussion forum on health and fitness, and conduits to a hiking group or a reflexology clinic. The portal could automatically notify the user of special lectures and events at the fitness club, as well as campaigns and special offers that enable the user to get discounts and featured services.
While these examples are very narrow ways in which a person would create and use their personal desktop, it is, ultimately, much closer to how many of us try to organize our current desktops. Many of us install photos and images on the desktop itself, add screensavers, and add components or icons on the desktop so that common applications or documents can be accessed quickly and easily. Many times, we see that a person doing a presentation has added a shortcut directly on the desktop, making that document and the underlying application immediately accessible. This is exactly how the Portal, and the Internet Operating System, should work.
Just as there are millions of different ways that users organize their Windows desktops, there will be millions of ways that people will organize their Internet portals. The many companies that realize the benefits and the meaning of this will create elements that users can add and modify in their personal portals, dragging the icons from the corporate portals and making the news feeds, data, services, and tools just another component in the user's personal portal. This will be much like a person who is playing a role playing game adds a tool, trick, or weapon into his arsenal. Some people want many devices, cluttered into a single bag. Others will create a tool hierarchy, so that the information and tools are organized by simple rules and neat packages. Many will mix and match at various times. The desktops will usually be a combination of long and often used favorites, and a bunch of things that are necessary for recent and immediate needs. The desktops will be like our refrigerators, with a core of staples--like butter, eggs, and milk--and a rainbow of changing colors...like yesterday's meatloaf and today's Chinese chicken salad.
I believe, then, that many companies should be thinking, concretely about how to create and utilize the tools for creating EIPs, VIPs, and PIPs. The modular approach to the creation of Portals, and the use of industry-wide standards in the tools, icons, and services themselves will enable people to mix and match these components to create their desktops and the Operating Systems of the future.
For more information about portals and portal software, these companies and URLs should help:
Companies offering portal software and solutions
Articles and sources for information about portal technology
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