Skip to main content
Vive La Difference

When I was interviewing the Microsoft CEO for Europe, Jean Philippe Courtois, last week, we touched briefly on Web Services and those areas where he felt that Europe was leading the rest of the world.

The arrival of the Internet made the world a much easier place to develop workable ‘Open’ standards and standards can be good for business, as they can deny a single company the opportunity of controlling an important technology. You may have read that Microsoft has finally been ‘persuaded’ to reveal its source code to Governments and has been active in working with the industry to develop and support the next generation of open standards and technical rules, with acronyms like SOAP, XML, UDDI, WSDL and others.

John Gotze reminds me that: "The definition of a Web service is a software system identified by a URI, whose public interfaces and bindings are defined and described using XML. Its definition can be discovered by other software systems. These systems may then interact with the Web service in a manner prescribed by its definition, using XML based messages conveyed by internet protocols".

Of course, Microsoft’s view of the future doesn’t always coincide with everyone else’s, particularly if you happen to be Sun Microsystems or IBM but Courtois comments: “Our XML based interoperable world where data can be shared as easily as text and pictures, is an example of how we are enhancing technologies and connecting all systems, not just Microsoft's. This is a credible, open and innovative approach which even our sceptics would agree is a real commitment”.

Where XML is involved at least, there is a consensus or as close to one as you’re ever likely to find in this industry, which has XML acting rather like the fax machine of the 21st century.

What do I mean by this? Fax machines we take for granted these days, because the technology ‘negotiates’ which standard they use to communicate with each other, in this case the transmission speed. XML, the foundation on which Web Services are being built, does much the same thing but in terms of a common understanding of what a piece of information, such as ‘Customer’ or ‘Date’ actually means in a document being passed between different systems. For XML to work, everyone has to work together, friend and foe alike, with no room for any one company to stay outside what is effectively the equivalent of the Euro currency for Web Services. Courtois, from his Microsoft perspective in Paris, points out that because of the demand for legislative 'harmonisation' between member states, “The EU is leading in developing many standards of the new interoperable and secure computing environment; this again offers opportunities for us to both learn and contribute”.

Asked if there are fundamental differences in challenges facing the company in Europe, Courtois identifies three areas as uniquely European.

“There are some exceptional technology opportunities in Europe. Smart phone technology is one good example,” says Courtois.

"Tablet PCs can also leverage wireless advances in Europe, faster than in other markets. E-government is advancing quickly across Europe and European information workers are the prime beneficiaries of many of the technology advances that we are seeing."

So, it’s good news for Europe, with Courtois estimating that 1.5 million IT jobs have been created in the EU through the collision of the internet and the personal computer and its good news for Microsoft that more than one million people are engaged in reselling Microsoft technology in western Europe.

In contrast with the UK, there is so much good news in Europe that I am seriously thinking of joining the long list of asylum-claiming columnists on the other side of the channel where lunch takes two hours and where the trains run on time. Ironically, I don’t know anyone in IT who wouldn’t do the same if the opportunity arose. Would you?


Popular posts from this blog

Mainframe to Mobile

Not one of us has a clue what the world will look like in five years’ time, yet we are all preparing for that future – As  computing power has become embedded in everything from our cars and our telephones to our financial markets, technological complexity has eclipsed our ability to comprehend it’s bigger picture impact on the shape of tomorrow.

Our intuition has been formed by a set of experiences and ideas about how things worked during a time when changes were incremental and somewhat predictable. In March 1953. there were only 53 kilobytes of high-speed RAM on the entire planet.

Today, more than 80 per cent of the value of FTSE 500* firms is ‘now dark matter’: the intangible secret recipe of success; the physical stuff companies own and their wages bill accounts for less than 20 per cent: a reversal of the pattern that once prevailed in the 1970s. Very soon, Everything at scale in this world will be managed by algorithms and data and there’s a need for effective platforms for ma…

Civilisational Data Mining

It’s a new expression I haven’t heard before. ‘Civilisational data mining.’

Let me start by putting it in some context. Every character, you or I have typed into the Google search engine or Facebook over the last decade, means something, to someone or perhaps ‘something,’ if it’s an algorithm.

In May 2014, journalists revealed that the United States National Security Agency, the NSA, was recording and archiving every single cell-phone conversation that took place in the Bahamas. In the process they managed to transform a significant proportion of a society’s day to day interactions into unstructured data; valuable information which can of course be analysed, correlated and transformed for whatever purpose the intelligence agency deems fit.

And today, I read that a GOP-hired data company in the United States has ‘leaked’ personal information, preferences and voting intentions on… wait for it… 198 million US citizens.

Within another decade or so, the cost of sequencing the human genome …

The Big Steal

I’m not here to predict the future;” quipped the novelist, Ray Bradbury. “I’m here to prevent it.” And the future looks much like one where giant corporations who hold the most data, the fastest servers, and the greatest processing power will drive all economic growth into the second half of the century.

We live in an unprecedented time. This in the sense that nobody knows what the world will look like in twenty years; one where making confident forecasts in the face of new technologies becomes a real challenge. Before this decade is over, business leaders will face regular and complex decisions about protecting their critical information and systems as more of the existing solutions they have relied upon are exposed as inadequate.

The few real certainties we have available surround the uninterrupted march of Moore’s Law - the notion that the number of transistors in the top-of-the-line processors doubles approximately every two years - and the unpredictability of human nature. Exper…