Mon, 20 Nov 2000

Net revolution is 'just beginning'

By: Johannes Simbolon

SHANGHAI, China (JP): American leading e-business software maker Computer Associates (CA) International Ltd voiced optimism about the future of Internet businesses, saying the spectacular rise and fall of dotcoms and information technology incubators at present was a natural selection process.

"Some people are saying the end (of the Internet revolution) is near. But, I say it's not the beginning of the end. It's the end of the beginning," CA's chairman and founder Charles B. Wang said in his keynote speech during the CA-World Asia conference and exhibition in Shanghai.

CA invited about 4,000 journalists, customers and IT experts from across the Asia-Pacific region to the exhibition and conference which was held from Nov. 6 to Nov. 8.

The conference and exhibition is part of CA's global tour to promote its products and the latest development in Internet business. Prior to the Shanghai event, CA held similar conferences and exhibitions in Barcelona, Spain from Jan. 22 to Jan. 24 this year and in Orlando from July 8 to July 13 this year.

He said the use of the Internet and information technology (IT) had been creating untold opportunities to transform business and society, and the people had not yet finished exploring and developing the opportunities.

"Now is the time when we can truly leverage all that we have learned in the use of IT," Wang said.

The world was heading to an era where the Internet network would become as common as the electricity network.

"It won't be long now until all of us are plugging into an Information Utility every day like we do for electricity today," Wang said.

Wang made the statement amid growing pessimism about the survival of dotcom businesses following the global dotcom collapse and the slump in technology shares on the Nasdaq stock market.

For instance, dotcom companies in Asia, which started to flourish early this year, are now facing difficulties in raising funds through initial public offerings. They have either perished due to the lack of funds or have been forced to cut their workforce and spending to survive.

Wang however said he was still optimistic about the future of the Internet in Asia and expressed CA's commitment to invest in the region.

"We will continue to invest heavily in Asia," he said.

He said CA was also upbeat about business opportunities in Indonesia despite the country's continuing economic and political turmoil but he refused to specify how much the company had invested in the country as well as its investment plans.

One promising business opportunity in Asia which attracts CA is the Application Service Provider (ASP) business, Wang said.

The ASP provides Internet software applications which customers can access remotely from a central data center and rent them on a monthly basis.

This service helps dotcoms and small and medium-sized companies cut their costs in Internet businesses as they need not to buy costly software applications.

"Market research firms have predicted that the size of this virtually untapped market will exceed US$5 billion by 2003," Wang said.

CA, he said, had recently spun off an independent company called i-Can-ASP in Asia to serve infrastructure needs of the region's ASPs and had formed partnerships and joint ventures with Asia's leading telcos, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and broadband providers.

These include Cable and Wireless of Hong Kong Telecom, Satyam Computer Services Ltd in India, Korea Telecom's Hitel, Shanghai Telecom, the Broadband division of the Acer Group in Taiwan, Keppel Telecommunications & Transportation in Singapore and NTT Communications Corporation in Singapore.

In Indonesia, CA's operation, which started in 1988, is mostly focused on the sale of its software products with customers including Bank Indonesia, Bank Lippo, Bank BNI 46 and oil companies PT Caltex Pacific Indonesia and Pertamina.

CA's world-acclaimed software products include Neugents, which analyzes data, predicts business outcomes and resolve problems before they start; newly-released Jasmine ii which speeds time to market business-to-business (B2B), business to consumers (B2C), ASP and trading exchange applications; and e-Trust which provides protection against viruses and hackers.

Despite its focus on e-business software, CA, as part of its charity program, has also established foundations and produced software to help surgeons rectify cleft lips and palates in children and assist police find missing children around world.

Wang pointed out CA's "missing children" and "cleft lips" software products as evidence that the Internet revolution was not only good for business but "goes beyond business opportunities to bring people together for a common good."

Wang is a Shanghai native who, at the age of four, emigrated to the United States with his family in 1952.

In 1974, he, together with three friends, founded CA which has now become a $6 billion software maker which listed on the New York Stock Exchange and has 20,000 employees worldwide.