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IP ubiquity for the future

Delivering the Networld+Interop keynote speech in Atlanta, Sun Microsystems' chief technology officer Eric Schmidt sketches a networking vision in which Internet Protocol-based gadgets will be part of everyone's daily experience.

ATLANTA--At today's Networld+Interop keynote speech, Sun Microsystems' (SUNW) chief technology officer Eric Schmidt sketched a networking vision in which Internet Protocol-based gadgets will be part of everyone's daily experience.

"We're defining ubiquity as victory," Schmidt declared to a packed hall.

Schmidt pointed to the competitive state of the current browser wars as an example. Netscape Communications and Microsoft are defining the market by giving away products in order to gain an advantage through ubiquity, not revenue.

With the explosive growth of browsers, users are emerging from an "era of infinite duplication" to an "era of infinite variety," he said.

Basing his discussion on the explosive growth of Internet and intranet technology, Schmidt said that by the year 2000, each person could have at least five IP-addressable devices at their disposal. "Once you've seen IP, you can't go back," Schmidt said.

Sun has invested in this paradigm. The company has articulated a network-based strategy in which large servers--Sun would prefer they were Ultra Enterprise models--hold the bulk of the computing power. They, in turn, will send data and applications across heavy-duty pipes to a thin client that uses the application and returns it to the server. Sun's cross-platform programming language, Java, would be a key ingredient in this model.

Schmidt cited statistics that indicate there will be 30 million Java-capable users by the end of 1996. By the end of 1997, that number will balloon to 100 million.

"It will be the fastest adoption of a new technology in the history of computing," he said.

Schmidt also noted data that show that Internet service provider traffic is doubling every six months. PC users are also now spending 11.4 hours per week in front of their machines, according to Schmidt.

What does it all add up to? Schmidt said the Internet will eventually rival the explosive growth and the accompanying cultural shift that took place when television gained mass acceptance.

IBM executive Irving Wladawsky-Berger will continue the keynote addresses later today, addressing the question of where the center of gravity on the Internet lies--server or desktop. The Networld+Interop show runs through Friday.