The future of the Internet is under discussion in Zurich this week at the seventh Internet Expo (iEX).This content was published on February 4, 2003 - 10:31
And despite the bursting of the dotcom bubble, event organisers insist that the future is once again looking healthy.
"The number of exhibitors taking part in this year's Expo is back on a par with the boom year 2000," says iEX leader Giancarlo Palmisani. Some 330 firms have set up stands at the event.
"The difference now is that we are predicting steady growth in the industry, based on real indicators rather than the hype that went before."
IBM Switzerland's Adrian Schlund, one of the experts due to open the Expo with a talk entitled "Internet - what's next", shares Palmisani's optimism.
Thanks to improved technology and greater flexibility in the use of Internet resources, Schlund believes the new media can finally deliver on some old promises.
"Many of the claims made before about how the Internet would change the business world just weren't possible using the technology of the time," Schlund argues.
"Of course there were also a load of people saying that the Internet would make old business models redundant - something that we know now was complete nonsense."
"Nevertheless, many of the purely technological changes have since been realised, whether it be the move towards offices that can operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week or having globally dispersed outlets.
"In Switzerland particularly, I think people saw the bursting of the dotcom bubble more as a business failing than as a problem with the technology itself."
Describing the Internet's troubled relationship with the financial world, Schlund refers to a graph depicting the boom-time "peak of anticipation" along with the subsequent "trough of disillusionment".
Now though the Zurich-based consultant is convinced that a "plateau of profitability" is just around the corner.
"We're going to see the Internet becoming the basis for all IT services," predicts Schlund, "and improved technology will make it possible for people to rely on the Internet in the same way as they rely on light, electricity or water supplies.
"The latest method for virtualising these services involves the renting out of Internet capacity to businesses who would otherwise have to make more permanent investments in hard disks, servers and so on.
"With Internet infrastructure being increasingly offered on a pay-as-you-go basis, today's technology can help make businesses more sustainable and more profitable."
After months of gloom, the forecast is one which exhibitors at this year's Internet Expo are bound to welcome.
Even more cheeringly, Schlund believes that Swiss IT experts are in a good position to profit from the anticipated upturn.
"The overall acceptance in Switzerland of the Internet's importance to business is quite big," reckons Schlund, "and I think the Swiss are adapting pretty well to the new technology, with Swisscom, for example, struggling to keep up with the demand for broadband access.
"That should mean that Switzerland has a good foundation for whatever comes next in the industry."
The Internet Expo began with a series of pre-conference talks on February 3 - the full event runs at Zurich's Messe from February 5-7.
swissinfo, Mark Ledsom in Zurich
iEX is Switzerland's biggest trade fair dealing purely with the Internet.
Some 330 exhibitors are attending this year's event.
Last year, the show drew 28,000 industry visitors.
The Expo runs from February 5-7.
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