EAST PALO ALTO, Calif.-Earlier this week, in a conference room here at the Four Seasons, some of the most powerful figures in Silicon Valley gathered for an informal meeting to discuss the state of IT in general and, by the way, how the rapidly zig-zagging economy also is impacting it.
The conference, hosted by the DLA Piper international law firm, was tightly controlled and limited in access, in that no outside cameras and no working reporters were allowed inside. So, inside this relatively secure room, the leaders of technology were able to be candid about their situations in the new economy, as well as talk about trends-and any other news-they are seeing in each of their sectors.
The 2008 Global Technology Leaders Summit featured some true name-brand players from Microsoft, Sun Microsystems and other major IT leaders.
The guest lineup could have rivaled any "Who's Who in IT." CXOs from Amazon, Walmart.com, Stanford University, Safeway, Pacific Gas & Electric, the state of California, the U.S. Departments of Transportation and Health & Human Services, Research In Motion, Qualcomm, Cisco Systems, NetSuite, Pfizer, and several other distinguished enterprises were in attendance.
Even though there appeared to be only about 200 guests, the world was well-represented. The U.K., France, South Africa-even Macedonia-had people at the conference.
Former Sen. George Mitchell, chairman of DLA Piper-a leading international firm that does a busy practice in IT venture capital and intellectual property law-was the third keynote speaker, and he proved to be a gracious, humble host with a marvelous self-deprecating humor.
You might remember Mitchell as the key U.S. envoy in the accords that brought peace to Northern Ireland in 1998 after generations of fighting (thanks to the Good Friday Agreement) and as the director of Major League Baseball's 2007 internal investigation into the illegal use of performance-enhancing drugs among its athletes.
Here are a few of the highlights that were talked about at the summit:
- Amazon.com, one of the clear Web 2.0 world leaders, now sees its future in the Web services subscription and storage business. The evidence? It is now using nearly two-thirds of its available bandwidth for that part of the business-even though its stores continue to process thousands of transactions a minute.
- Cloud computing for large enterprises is a dead duck, in the opinion of several venture capital firms.
- The current slowdown in the U.S. macroeconomy is definitely going to hurt the IT industry, as it will most of the nation's businesses, for at least the next year and most likely into the next two years.
- The major pharmaceutical companies are fast becoming glorified marketing and sales organizations, and if they aren't careful, they could soon become irrelevant as consumers move more and more toward generic brands. Biotech companies are "where the biopharm[aceutical] money is at," one astute observer said.