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IBM exec slams Microsoft

Internet World A key IBM executive levels sharp but veiled criticism at Microsoft for trying to undermine Java as an industry standard.

Internet World LOS ANGELES--A key IBM (IBM) Internet executive leveled sharp but veiled criticism at Microsoft (MSFT) today for trying to undermine efforts to make Java an industry standard.

"Some companies possibly have an idea about cornering the Internet, bringing it to the desktop or cornering it over on some corner of the network," said John Patrick, IBM's vice president of Internet technology, who termed such "proprietary thrusts" as a danger to the Net.

"That's a bad idea. The Internet was built on cooperation. The world is one Internet; no one company should or can dominate this," he said in the afternoon keynote at Internet World, rekindling a controversy that erupted in December at New York's Internet World show.

"It must be built on open industry standards, cross-platform, utilizing the language that anybody can write, anybody can read, and that can run on any platform," Patrick added. "This is a powerful idea, to let the world reuse components made from 100 percent pure Java. There are no losers in this."

David Gee, IBM's program director of Java marketing, confirmed that Patrick's remarks on "proprietary thrusts" were directed at Microsoft.

"We encourage them to adopt a more open stance and adopt open standards, in particular 100 percent pure Java," Gee said. The "100 percent pure Java" initiative spoken of was unveiled at December's Internet World show by Sun Microsystems' JavaSoft unit and has won industry support, but not Microsoft's. It also ignited a war of words between JavaSoft and Microsoft executives over how Microsoft is using Java.

In his keynote today, Patrick painted a broad picture of networked businesses, consumers, governments, and educational institutions, a world he says is coming soon. His rosy vision is, of course, consistent with IBM's focus on networked computing.

"The Net is not a phenomenon; it's about the emergence of a rather incredible network, soon maybe with accessibility by billions of people," he said. "What's next? A Web that facilitates natural, human reactions, where things just happen as it's important for them to happen, a network that's responsive for our needs, self-directed, the medium for all purposes."

In Patrick's future world, phones, pagers, cars, dishwashers, even vending machines have Internet addresses. "Can you imagine a vending machine sending messages to headquarters, saying 'I'm out of 7Up?'"

Nor will the impact on business and information technology in particular be any less. "The priority is not to write all new applications but doing new interfaces for Web."

Internet commerce, or e-business in Big Blue's lexicon, will mean extending core business systems, "enabling things that exist and allowing information to escape to new constituents."

But Patrick sees potential barriers to achieving that vision, including those "proprietary thrusts" from a certain software giant. Security issues, available bandwidth, scalability, and unwanted government regulation also could impede reaching that vision quickly.

But Patrick remains an optimist. "E-business will be the driver that fuels evolution of the medium. For institutions, that means unlimited reach; for individuals, unlimited choice."