Tech Industry

Show glimpses consumer future

On the last day of the Demo 98 technology conference, panel members show off future wares aimed at consumers.

PALM SPRINGS, California--The next wave of technology innovation will be driven by the consumer markets, not business users, says the man who runs a high-tech think tank funded by investor Paul Allen.

"Digital electronics is starting to become a significant product," said David Liddle, chief executive of Interval Research. "We are now in the situation of making business products of technology built for consumers. That is good news because it's harder to make things for consumers than for businesses."

Liddle spoke on the final day of the Demo 98 technology conference--a day devoted to visions of the industry's future.

That future will require new business models, as the panel members testified by their action. Liddle's Interval Research is launching start-up companies to commercialize its consumer-focused technologies, while Intel invests in independent start-ups with both money and Intel-researched technologies.

"We look to start-up companies to take our developments--we don't try to commercialize them ourselves," said Avram Miller, Intel's vice president of corporate business development.

Scott Penberthy, technical assistant to IBM chief executive Lou Gerstner, predicted that as microprocessors get faster and smaller, computers will allow parallel processing on the same chip.

Miller urged executives to think beyond the United States because much of the Internet connectivity here won't be duplicated elsewhere. "The notion of point-to-point connectivity isn't going to work in the rest of the world, even with the arrival of satellite-based communications," he said.

In a final set of demos today, Red Box Technologies showed its smart networking technology, IBM demonstrated its antivirus service, and Intel gave a glimpse of life a few years hence in the networked home.

Although much of today's Internet technology was created on federal--often military--grants a quarter-century ago, no one on the vision panel expects government funding to play so central a role in the future.

"Look at how big the information processing industry is now, and the government portion [of research] has shrunk unbelievably," said Liddle. "There is no chance for any government initiative to be a drop in that bucket." (Allen is an investor in CNET: The Computer Network.)