Internet World Fall 99: Same old, same old

Maybe I'm getting jaded from too many trade shows, but Internet World Fall 99 just didn't do a thing for me. Things started off on a boring note Wednesday with no exciting new product announcements, but the Larry Ellison keynote address later in the day drew some needed chuckles. Always the showman, Ellison used his time onstage to trash Windows and pontificate on the world of computing according to Oracle. It was good stuff.

Ellison started out his presentation with a dry throat, leading him to ask an Oracle flunky near the front of the stage for a bottle of water, which she scurried off to get. Ellison, sensing the correct moment for a joke, played to the crowd, saying "look, I'll pay $100 for a glass of water," just as she arrived with the bottle. A hand appeared above the crowd as the bottle was passed to Ellison and the place went nuts. It was cute, though clearly contrived, as we could see from our viewpoint at the front of the packed auditorium.

Ellison's presentation focused on the death of client/server computing, a model he described as "ludicrous." And Ellison's call for basing business on the Web model is a good one, good enough that even Microsoft is pushing it with its own marketing program called Windows DNA. Ellison described the way that computer companies thought they were empowering users with PCs, only to later realize that they had done nothing but spread complexity across the enterprise.

"Develop for the Web," he advised developers in the audience, "and do not develop for Windows. It's a dead end."

While I don't agree with all of Ellison's comments about Windows, he makes a compelling case for the centralization of data and using the Web as an application server. Whether Ellison's predictions turn out to be true, of course, remain to be seen.

After the keynote, Keith Furman and I met with WUGNET's Larry McJunkin, Joel Diamond, and Howard Sobel before heading off into the fray of the Internet World show floor. There wasn't much going on at the Microsoft booth, which occupied its customary position at the front of the convention center. Creative Labs was showing off its Nomad II portable multimedia player, which will boast 64 MB of RAM, AM/FM radio, removable media, USB and Windows 2000 support, and microphone when it debuts in early 2000. AOL was once again giving away the not-most-recent version of Netscape Communicator on CD; this time it was version 4.61. eFax had a commanding presence at the show, which a huge booth, numerous advertisement banners, and a new free voice mail service. Macromedia was showing off Generator 2, which is expensive but provides awesome dynamic Flash-based content for Web sites. The show floor and surrounding streets were full of Santa Claus impersonators handing out Santa hats for an Internet start-up that obviously has too much venture capital on its hands.

If I hear one more take-off on "Dot Com," I'm going to scream.

When the show ended, we headed out to some parties with the guys from WUGNET. After an insanely long wait for a limo, we finally arrived at the JP Davis & Co. Internet:Press party, which resembles the PCXPress parties they always have at PC Expo: Smaller companies band together to show off their wares to the press. One high note: LapLink was showing off its new LapLink 2000 software, which looks sweet. It also supports Windows 2000 now, which is much appreciated.

After Internet:Press, Keith and I headed over to the vastly overrated (and over-invited) Globix party at Mars 2112, a freakish Planet Hollywood-like dungeon with an alien theme. This party was a complete waste of time, sadly, with throngs of press, VIPs, and Globix employees clamoring over each other to get at the free booze. We skipped out after a few minutes and grabbed some Chinese food in Times Square instead.

If there's a lesson to all of this, I guess it escapes me. But I came away from Internet World pretty disappointed, though an afternoon on the show floor was a good training ground for Fall Comdex, only a month away

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