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How's IT Going?

By Michael K. Kato

Bruised and Confused
IT is going fine! Well, there certainly are a bunch of lumps and bruises along the way, but most of them, including the downfall of IT giants WorldCom and Global Crossing, are self-inflicted. The crumbling of Wall Street over the past few weeks notwithstanding, there is, to me, no doubt that the future of global business, economy, and environment rests firmly in the palms of the giant IT.

Over the past 30+ years, huge advances in IT technology have led to quantum leaps in the way in which people use computing power.

In the 70s, widespread use of mainframes in global business led to tremendous advances in database technology, revolutionizing the retail and, more importantly, the financial industries.

In the 80s, the desktop PC boom and the widespread use of client-server systems in most corporations led to huge advances in logistics and led to more distributed application development. During this decade, the ramifications of Moore's Law made its first great leaps for humankind, making very powerful computers, capable not only of multimedia consumption, but also of multimedia development, available to the masses.

In the 90's, the evolution of ARPANET, the American military and academic network of computer networks, into the Internet spawned an entirely unforeseen revolution of computing enterprise. Despite the recent slowdown of global corporate growth, resulting from the "bursting of the dotcom bubble" in 2000-2001 and the shocking events known as 9- 11, the global use of the Internet and the size and scope of the WWW is growing at a relentless pace.


But now, in the Zips, I believe that we have finally started to scratch the surface of the true benefits and power of IT and the Internet. Elsewhere in this edition of the AJ, my book review on The Intelligent Wireless Web (H. Peter Alesso and Craig F. Smith, Addison- Wesley, Boston, 2002) refers to some of the trends affecting the WWW today. The trends toward a more intelligent and wireless Web, I believe, will make more information more comprehensible, useful, and beneficial to people and to our planet.

But unlike the evolutions and revolutions that have affected the IT industry and the global economy of the past 30 years, I believe that there is a fundamental difference in the way that the most important developments in IT are currently taking place. The biggest difference is that the main developments are not only taking place in the United States, but the most important battles are being fought in Asia, primarily in Japan, and in Europe.

Why Europe?
While companies and universities, in particular, in the United States are, no doubt, still leading the world in investment in basic technological research, creating headways into the developments that shape the products and services we use and utilize, there are some fundamental lifestyle differences between the United States and the rest of the world that affect, adversely, the developments shaping the implementation of global IT. For one, people are accustomed to greater spatial comfort, not only in our home and workplaces but also in our general urban and rural environments. Too, the availability of cheap and proximate leisure and fun make the value of information related to acquiring physical and mental health less valuable to many people. These two statements may be controversial to many Americans, but to people in the rest of the world, it seems rather obvious that Americans have a greater accumulation of wealth and prosperity than any people on our planet; in the rest of the world, people need to make better use of smaller spaces and fewer resources, the most important resource being information.

In Europe, the multiplicity of languages, cultures, and the proximity of people with vastly different standards and values of living make it much more essential to create common languages and rules governing behavior. It is no coincidence that many of the primary organizations that govern the rules and standards of the Internet and IT are based in Europe. Two of the most important, I believe, are W3C and the MPEG-4 Committee of International Standards Organization (ISO).

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is most well known for its drafting of the HTML Webpage language standard. However, in my opinion, currently, the more important standards for which the W3C is drafting specifications are for XML, XHTML, SOAP and Web Services, Web Ontology and the Semantic Web, and SMIL. This potpourri of acronyms is various ways of thinking about four important trends of the WWW.
1. The trend to make Web-based information behave more like a distributed, object- oriented, relational database not only in its ability to display information, but also to search and utilize information (XML and XHTML)
2. The trend to make functions and applications available though the Internet, making the Web a way of deploying just-in-time applications (XML, SOAP, and Web Services)
3. The trend to give the Internet an underlying logic layer, including, but not limited to, the subject-object-verb (author, Webpage, created by) relationship between Web information (XML, Web Ontology, and the Semantic Web)
4. The trend to make interactive audiovisual presentations a more easily deployable feature of Web information.


The Motion Picture Experts Group (MPEG) was established in 1988 as a working group of ISO/IEC (International Organization for Standardization and the International Electrotechnical Commission) in charge of the development of standards for coded representation of digital audio and video. To date, they have established standards for MPEG 1, 2, 4, and 7.


While MPEG and the ISO are not the only major organizations affecting the development of the MPEG-4 standard and interoperability between products designed to encode, decode, broadcast, and play MPEG-4 content, much of the industry rests on the group itself as the torchbearer. Other groups that are concerned with MPEG-4 standards and interoperability issues include the MPEG-4 Industry Forum (M4IF), Internet Streaming Media Alliance (ISMA), and


MPEG-4 is likely to be the most important method of delivering interactive audio-video and presentations both through traditional broadcast and through Web delivery. Because both ISO and IEC are based in Europe and, with many of the primary enterprises pushing the MPEG- 4 standard being based in Europe, it comes as no surprise then, that two of the leading MPEG-4 encoding/decoding/broadcast platform providers - Envivio and iVast - have engineering teams based in Europe.


Why Japan?
Japan and, to a lesser extent, other countries in Asia, including Korea, Taiwan, and China, is key primarily for its rapid deployment of wireless technology, broadband access, and double byte character language set. These three elements have made this market the most fundamentally difficult and interesting one for developers, as the prospect of delivering the most data intensive and difficult texts and multimedia content over somewhat "thick" pipes and onto the smallest data "terminals" is a challenge that is not only compelling, but profitable.

Because of population density and astronomical real estate costs, spatial requirements force Japanese and other Asian populations to think of converged devices as one means of making better use of integrated technologies. The more that a person in Asia can utilize technology in a wireless world, the more he can be free of being tethered to his home or workplace, that are likely to be much less cozy than those of his counterpart in North America. Furthermore, since the Asian worker and student is more likely to commute via some mass transportation system, he can make use of the commute time by logging into the "Net," grabbing and sending email, surfing Webpages, and reading news via his cellular Web- phone.

The Recent Past
Considering the trends and developments I have referred to above, over the past several weeks, the most important place in the IT world has been here in Tokyo. There have been at least three very important IT events over the past three weeks to underline my opinion.

Content Management Forum and Streaming Media Japan Spring 2002
First, on June 6 and 7, in the Tokyo International Forum in Yurakucho, IDG sponsored the Content Management Forum and Streaming Media Japan Spring 2002. With roughly 11,000 participants, the two shows were very well attended for such a cozy venue. URLs to some of the interesting and key technologies represented there (in my opinion) are provided below:


Web Services Conference
The second important event of the past several weeks was the Web Services Conference at Aoyama TEPIA, Tokyo, Japan on July 11 and 12, sponsored, again, by IDG. With just over 1000 participants, this conference was very sparsely attended. The conference was filled with excellent presentations throughout the two days. In particular, the presentations by Hugo Haas, Web Services Activity Lead of W3C, two members of the Oracle 9i J Developer system integration team, and John E. Davies, the Vice President of Sales and Marketing Group for Intel Corporation were particularly excellent.


For me, the advent of Web Services may be one of the most important developments in technology of the next decade. This may not seem like a very significant statement, as the next decade may not seem to be a very significant measure of time. On the other hand if Web Services proves to be a valid way of enabling computing users to utilize applications and technologies on-the-fly and just-in-time - much the same way that a consumer can buy many of the items he or she needs at a convenience store, that does not "stock" items in the same way as applications and technologies on-the-fly and just-in-time - much the same way that a consumer can buy many of the items he or she needs at a convenience store, that does not "stock" items in the same way as did supermarkets and department stores in the past - then this will have a significant impact on how people and enterprises utilize IT. In particular, just as convenience stores receive most of their "stock" directly from manufacturers, distributors, and vendors, while the processing of orders and sales is centralized, Web Services may enable portals to "stock" the applications, functions, and services of many manufacturers, vendors, and developers, enable the payment, delivery, logging, and management of the applications, and distribute through third party licensees and syndicates automatically, without human intervention, and over a variety of devices, platforms, and operating environments.

While this scenario may seem far-fetched, some aspects of this broad and ambitious technology are already being implemented. To me, it is no coincidence that two of the leading implementations of Web Services are Japanese. One is an aggressive implementation by an industrial dinosaur, Toshiba Corporation. While the fossilized parent makes its standard laggardly attempts to demonstrate its mastery of technologies it fails to fathom, one of its offshoots, Ekimae Tanken Kurabu, has started to implement Web Services as a means of distributing useful functions to its service partners and, ultimately, their customers.


Another Japanese company, a small technology venture call npc, has developed DCA, a transaction server that facilitates and enhances a private marketplace between dealers and a market maker (i.e., Exchange). Together with its partners, including Sun, IBM, CTC, HP, and others, npc expects to utilize Web Services to allow "the online trader to obtain a desired product on an as-needed basis and at the desired cost. If an order is sent to the DCA via a convenient, user-friendly terminal such as a mobile phone or PDA, the DCA server will immediately return the optimal result through a real- time search of the product offering the best conditions and price." In this regard, DCA combines both the "hand-shaking" interoperability of Web Services and the "intelligence" of matching user preferences and past behavior analysis to product availability.


I believe that Web Services will prove to be a very successful way of implementing a wide variety of applications and services through the Internet. Not only are there a great many useful services and functions that would be implemented more easily and profitably through Web Services, but also without some similar infrastructure, the programming required to create these services is not likely to be invested. Without having a distributed, modular methodology of invoking and paying for Web applications and services, the would be authors of such important functionality would only be easily able to distribute their code as freeware or shareware.

I believe that in addition to the commonly mentioned examples of Web Services, such as those that involve travel- related services such as airline, hotel, and car rental reservations, enabling travel agents to negotiate, handshake, and transact seamlessly with services that they have never had any previous transactions with, many other more commonplace applications will take root as Web Services. These may include data mining tools, intelligent searching agents, recommendation engines, and other kinds of sometimes small helper applications and enabling technologies. These could be managed and maintained by application repositories, that maintain logs and manage micro payments, enabling services that are rented for as little as a few pennies per use to be made accessible via the Internet.

TPC/Code-J Joint Event
Last week, the TPC and Code-J co-sponsored a small event at radio:on:active that was also very interesting. The presenter was supposed to be Dan Saito of Envivio, but ended up being Takahiro Tomita, General Manager of the Streaming Sales Group of Inno Micro Corporation, and the main distributor of Envivio's products in Japan. Envivio, as one of the global leaders of MPEG-4 broadcast solutions, is openly going head-to-head in combat against Microsoft in the interactive audio-visual presentation market.


While Envivio's current main competition seems to be iVast, with smaller competitors being companies such as Packet Video, Emblaze Technologies, ActiveSky, Aether Systems, Loudeye, and iSky, as well as publicly perceived competitors HelloNetwork, RealNetworks, ScreamingMedia, and Apple QuickTime, their biggest enemy is Microsoft and the Windows Media Player. The Internet Streaming Media Alliance (ISMA), mentioned above, is the primary industry organization that is organized to create an interoperable standard that will defeat their sworn enemy. A look at their membership list is notable for the absence of Microsoft. The sponsor members are: Apple Computer, Cisco Systems, IBM, Kasenna, Philips, and Sun Microsystems. Participant members include Envivio, iVast, AOL Time Warner, Dolby Laboratories, France Telecom, Hitachi, Inktomi, Lucent Technologies, Oki Electric, Panasonic AVC, Sharp Labs, and Sony. The URL to the full list is found below. More information on Streaming Media can be found at the site, Streaming Media World.




Expo Comm Wireless Japan 2002
The most recent and important IT Expo in Japan was Expo Comm Wireless Japan 2002, held at Tokyo Big Sight on July 17-19. This year, over 33,000 people attended the show. Co- organized by RIC Telecom Co., Ltd. and E.J. Krause & Associates, the show featured over 180 exhibitors and over 40 conference presentations and workshops.


This year's features included Mobile ASP, CRM, and Security solutions, Wireless LAN and Bluetooth solutions, Advanced Technologies, including telematics, and 3G mobile. One of the more interesting things at this year's show was at a panel discussion I attended on Thursday the 18th. The panelists were a representative of the Japanese Management and Coordination Agency, and three companies, NTT Communications, Qualcomm, and Ericsson Japan. A professor of Chuo University moderated the panel. The discussion was scheduled for 90 minutes.

The topic of the discussion was on the future of wireless business in Japan, including the advent of Mobile Virtual Network Operators, 3G networks, and wireless LANs, a virtual hodgepodge of industry buzzwords. The initial talks were intended to be a short introduction by each of the four panelists about their view of the wireless business in Japan. Network Connect
The guy from NTT Communications gave first a ten-minute pep talk regarding the future of Hot Spots as the way of the future of wireless in Japan. To him, phones are really just phones, primarily, and the future of data traffic will be with portable computers and PDAs and that power consumption and bandwidth requirements will force most people to stay somewhat tethered to pockets of broadband access. Next, the Qualcomm dude gave a seething criticism of the NTT Communications view of the wireless world, saying that people want the anytime anywhere accessibility to information and functionality, and that power consumption, battery power, and intelligent devices will have to adapt to people's needs or the competition will kill the less determined and ready. The guy from Eriksson proceeded to say that they are prepared to make devices to fit the requirements of both the NTT Communications and Qualcomm view of the world, as well as their own take on the wireless universe, Bluetooth. Basically, Ericsson, it seems, is comfortable being the Baskin Robbins of mobile devices.

Finally, it was the turn of the government bureaucrat. His presentation lasted for over thirty minutes, covering, I would hope, many things. However, I was unable to keep awake, and slept after the first few minutes. I know he started by talking about the tremendous growth of the Internet-capable phone user base or, perhaps, it was the Internet phone based security issues, or something in between. Ultimately, it was irrelevant as by the time I woke up fifteen or twenty minutes later, half of the audience was gone and half of those remaining were asleep still.

By the time the other panelists got a chance to speak again, it was time to wrap things up. Mercifully, only the three from NTT Communications, Qualcomm, and Ericsson spoke the second time around, with only the guy from Qualcomm saying anything interesting, proposing that Qualcomm's cdma2000 1xEV-DO (1x Evolution-Data Only) technology is one way in which the anytime anywhere accessibility can be realized.


There were at least five or six other very interesting companies and products that presented seminars and exhibited at the show, but I will mention here only a few worth checking out:

      NTT DOCOMO   SH2101V

Going back to my original statement of enthusiasm for the progress and prospects of IT in Japan, I reiterate that the time is ripe for the advancement of interesting technology. Like the postulations in The Intelligent Wireless Web, I believe that the Web will gradually contain features mimicking human intelligence. Further, I agree with Alesso and Smith that wireless devises that take advantage of underlying logic and imbedded intelligent services will become more commonplace within this decade. While the futuristic scenario of interoperable, device independent, distributed, and ubiquitous Internet delivered applications may currently seem more flighty than inevitable, there is no doubt that the WWW of the future will function more like a single, gigantic relational database than the unfathomable amalgam of knowledge, nonsense, propaganda, and fraud that is currently so difficult to navigate and fascinating to explore.

Compute Globally For me, Japan is where convergent devices, smaller real estate, complex needs, stagnant economy, and fossilized public services make it an ideal location for the newest and best IT technologies to wage battle. Ideally, these technologies will take root firmly, helping to create a rich soil and seeds for an educational system that grows creativity and hope, two core human values and needs that have been trampled upon and crushed in modern Japan.

© Algorithmica Japonica Copyright Notice: Copyright of material rests with the individual author. Articles may be reprinted by other user groups if the author and original publication are credited. Any other reproduction or use of material herein is prohibited without prior written permission from TPC. The mention of names of products without indication of Trademark or Registered Trademark status in no way implies that these products are not so protected by law.

Algorithmica Japonica

August , 2002

The Newsletter of the Tokyo PC Users Group

Submissions : Editor

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