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The Next Big Thing

So what technologies will be important in the years to come? The panelists all believe that technology has a lot to offer, but each one has his own desires.
Huang is excited about “the disappearance of wires all over the place,” whether using Bluetooth, 802.11 wireless Ethernet products, or other technologies. During the talk, he pushed the “virtualization of resources” where things like storage and processing power are shared among multiple users.

Lynch wants much more information management. “The amount of information that is coming at us is so great and the filters aren’t there to enable us to select and do what we can do and be more efficient,” he said.

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“Technology has become a major influence on the way we conduct our business and personal lives. We’ve done a lot with the technology we have, but there’s plenty of room both to invent new technology and to use the technology we do have to improve business, communications, and the standard of living across the globe.” — Michael Miller ’79
Schmaier said “always-on computing”—putting high-speed networking into homes—will impact people’s lives even more than their businesses. “When your computer is on at all times, there is a lifestyle to it that can make the computer an integral part of your life.” Examples include checking the weather before you go out, checking the movie you’re going to, and getting maps to where you are going.

“It’s also going to be the grand equalizer when it comes to the ubiquity of knowledge,” he said. In third-world countries it might not go into the home, but into the public libraries. “It will provide people with this information they won’t get any other way,” he concluded.

But not everyone is a believer in one new technology that will save the industry. “Everybody’s looking for the next big thing, and I’m not sure there is a next big thing,” said Sun’s Zander. “Right now it is making what we have work.”

Zander professed his belief in Web services; in virtualization, making more use of the computing storage and networks we already have; and in consumer wireless devices gradually replacing the PC as the primary access to the Internet. “The bottom line is a lot of incremental things,” Zander said. He said he expects the next decade will give us “a good ride, but don’t look for anything like the Internet, the PC, or workstations. We have a lot to do with the technology we [already] have.”

The panelists touched on a variety of questions about different technology posed by other Rensselaer alumni in the audience.

Asked about the outsourcing of software development to other countries, Schmaier said, “I don’t think a software world where IP (intellectual property) is outsourced is going to happen. In hardware you could come up with a design and blueprint and hand it to someone. Software is just different. We look at porting platforms, QA, localization—those are things you can export.” But the other panelists talked about how there were more engineering centers outside the United States now. “China and India are advancing at a remarkable pace,” Huang said. “They look at Silicon Valley as the place they want to take down.”

The panelists all predicted future growth in wireless technologies, though Zander in particular expressed a need for great wireless applications, and the difficulty in attracting developers.



Rensselaer Magazine: September 2002
President's View Your Mail From the Archives Hawk Talk Class Notes Features
Front Page At Rensselaer Milestones
In Memoriam Making a Difference Staying Connected
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