Q&A with Six IT Rock Stars

We asked six industry luminaries to predict the big IT stories and surprises of 2007.

The pundits and bloggers have all weighed in with their predictions for 2007, but what about technology's leading pioneers and visionaries? Computerworld's Gary Anthes and Thomas Hoffman asked Vinton Cerf, Robert Metcalfe, Leonard Kleinrock, Charles Feld, Warren Bennis and Robert Lucky three questions each about the big technology stories and surprises of 2006 and 2007.

Here's what they had to say.

3 Questions For Vinton Cerf

By Gary Anthes

The vice president and chief Internet evangelist at Google advises IT managers to get smart about security in 2007.

Vinton Cerf

Vinton CerfVinton G. Cerf is vice president and chief Internet evangelist at Google Inc. He is a co-designer of the TCP/IP protocols and the architecture of the Internet. In December 1997, President Clinton presented the National Medal of Technology to Cerf and colleague Robert E. Kahn for their pioneering work on the Internet.

Which IT story took you by surprise in 2006, and why? Several, really -- the dramatic increase in interest in YouTube, the remarkable attraction of Internet users to social networks like MySpace and multiplayer games like World of Warcraft.

What will be the biggest IT story of the new year? The massive influx of Internet-enabled mobile [devices] will dramatically increase the number of Internet users and also challenge Internet application service providers to adapt to the characteristics of these small devices.

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What one piece of advice would you offer the IT manager going into 2007? Get smart about security, integrity and authenticity tools. Work hard to protect exposed systems to attack from outside the corporate firewall and from within by e-mail-borne viruses, worms and Trojan horses.

3 Questions For Robert Metcalfe

By Thomas Hoffman

The co-inventor of Ethernet says the biggest IT story of the year won't be Vista, but rather, video.

Robert Metcalfe

Robert MetcalfeRobert Metcalfe is a general partner at Polaris Venture Partners, a venture capital company with offices in Waltham, Mass., and Seattle. Metcalfe co-invented Ethernet and founded 3Com Corp. in 1979. The following year, Metcalfe received the Association for Computing Machinery Grace Murray Hopper Award for his work in developing local networks. Metcalfe, who has also served as a publisher and columnist for InfoWorld magazine, was also awarded the IEEE Medal of Honor in 1996 and was bestowed with the National Medal of Technology by President Bush in 2003. He is also the creator of Metcalfe's Law, which states that the value of a network grows proportionally to the increase in the square of the number of the system's users.

Which IT story took you by surprise in 2006, and why? The social networking bubble was a bit of a surprise. We're seeing a torrent of these flashy social network startups in the higher reaches of the Web. It has a lot of traction now.

What surprises are in store for IT users in 2007? From my point of view, there's little new in IT, particularly in enterprise software. Video might take Computerworld readers by surprise. There are three major forces -- video, mobility and embedded -- all three of which are nipping at the edge of IT. Video burdens IP networks, and they haven't quite seen the value proposition, but CIOs will eventually have to embrace it instead of fighting it. For mobility, the platform of choice is increasingly cell phones and less desktops. Cell phones are now a platform for enterprise applications. Embedded software, such as RFID, hasn't quite made it yet. To make enterprise applications more aware of inventory or the supply chain through RFID and sensor networks -- of the three things, this is the furthest away from impacting CIOs.

What will be the biggest IT story of the new year? It's not going to be [Microsoft's] Vista. The more I hear about Vista, the more it sounds like it's not a departure. I hear a pleading for something more interesting than Vista. I would go back to video. We just had [Google's] big YouTube transaction. I take that as a harbinger, and the surprise will come from that direction. Just as the PC invaded the enterprise from the bottom, from the fringes two decades ago.

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