Web Services Future Shock

 
 
By Scot Petersen  |  Posted 2001-11-19
 
 
 

Ive sat through enough keynote speeches and accompanying promotional videos to take them for what they are worth, which isnt much. But at a recent analyst conference, Microsoft presented a commercial about the benefits of .Net My Services that was truly disturbing.

We meet the Cleavers in the near future in their well-appointed suburban home helping their two squeaky-clean kids off to the school bus. When the kids are gone, Dad hustles over to his state-of-the-art, flat-screen PC, which is brimming with software—e-mail, instant messaging, travel arrangements and videoconferencing—all interacting seamlessly. As Dad works his magic, effortlessly planning a vacation and arranging dinners, we cut to the kids and the grandparents, who receive instant notifications of the pending festivities. He didnt send the e-mail, mind you. The software did it.

On vacation at the zoo, Junior is busy with his wireless handheld, looking like Spock with his tricorder, downloading maps and encyclopedia entries about the chimpanzees hes looking at. While he and Dad read up on the monkeys, he gets a voice message from his buddy, and they arrange a play date. Later that evening, the grandparents are watching TV when an e-mail pops up on the screen, complete with the latest digital photos of the trip. Oohs and aahs ensue.

By this time, even Microsoft President Rick Belluzzo appeared as nauseated as I was, saying thats enough of that. Im sure I wasnt the only one watching who was left uneasy at the prospect of such a future.

The unspoken message is that none of what was portrayed would have been possible without all the great software at hand. Yet, in reality, none of it was necessary, as it complicates, rather than simplifies, the lives of the Cleavers.

Interactivity among intelligent clients and servers is certainly the future of the Internet, but there must be something more useful and redeeming about it than creating toys for well-to-do suburbanites who are more in touch with their Pocket PCs than the world around them. We need a new vision that gives everyone a better reason to embrace the future.

Do you buy it? Write to me at scot_ petersen@ziffdavis.com.

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