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Beyond the hype - drawing on Web experience

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Recent falls in Internet stock prices might suggest that there is more hype than substance to Internet businesses. Apparent value is here today, gone tomorrow. Such volatility is almost guaranteed where valuations are made on future profits to be earned in uncharted waters. Certainly cultivated hype has a role as a major weapon in talking-up a new Internet venture in order to build a share price to underwrite funding for development.

But you need to look elsewhere to understand the future possibilities for the Internet - at what many firms are buying into, the directions they are heading in and the assumptions they are making. For example it is assumed that Internet access will become a free or a very low priced commodity; that access will gradually spread to every desktop and that available bandwidth will continue to expand, making it easier to share big files like computer graphics. These are the sort of stable trends on which a practice can base future planning of communications and networking.

Patterns emerge even in the early days of developments such as Internet access on mobile phones. Today a lot of these new developments are consumer- led, as were most commercial applications in the early days of the Internet. Uses for practice are not hard to see though, such as picking up e-mails or the current bt-Microsoft trial offering phone access to company intranets. There is currently work going on to integrate text with voice, helped by speech-recognition software, and the more-complex speech-recognition software. Much work on multimedia applications is focused on computer games, but phone video-conferencing is coming too. Of course the cad equivalent of an A0 drawing can't be viewed on a mobile phone, but screens are getting bigger.

Internet stock-trading may look like a game but underneath you can find useful capabilities emerging.

Barrie Evans is editor of www.ajplus.co.uk

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