March 12, 1997 2:30 PM ET

Digital's Palmer: Internet is real 'information at your fingertips'
By Sean Silverthorne

  LOS ANGELES -- The Internet will deliver what computer executives from Bill Gates to John Sculley have long promised but not delivered: ubiquitous computing. So said Digital Equipment Corp. CEO and Chairman Robert Palmer in his keynote address at Internet World today.

Palmer painted a picture of a broad range of "information appliances" that will deliver everything from a customer's order to a new world order -- and all using Digital's products.

"The Internet will undoubtedly become the universal computing platform of choice," Palmer told show attendees. The Internet "will be embedded in everything we do," he said.

Of course, the promise of "anywhere, anyplace information" has been hyped by the industry for years. Former Apple Computer Inc. CEO Sculley called it "Knowledge Navigator," a mythical wireless tablet that would deliver everything from rain forest defoliation reports to videograms from one's parents. Microsoft Corp.'s Gates termed the idea "information at your fingertips"-the ability of computers to fetch stock quotes, prepare multimedia homework assignments and monitor power use in the home.

With the world now increasingly wired by the Web, the Internet has the ability to make good on those promises, Palmer said, but the industry must first improve availability, capacity and security on the network.

Three key technologies will combine to create "the next generation Internet," he said. These are 64-bit computing, high-speed networks and universal standards, and Palmer described Digital's role in providing them.

"Over the next few years, Internet access devices may become as common as the telephone," he said.

Although there was little news to be gleaned from the speech, Palmer said his R&D; forces are working on search technologies that will allow users to find audio and video data as well as text.

On Tuesday, Digital announced its Millicent Internet-based small-payment technology system. It will allow Internet transactions as small as fractions of a cent, according to company officials in Maynard, Mass.

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