Advances in information technology provide opportunities for dramatically increased connectivity, enabling new forms of interorganizational relationships and enhanced group productivity. [Madnick (1991), page 29.]The characteristics of that technology are:
Telecommunications applications for the individual consumer include advances in video and mobile services. Improved data compression techniques and falling costs now make possible video-telephones, though it is uncertain how strong the market demand is for such services.
The installation of optical fibre cables and improved data compression techniques make possible video-on-demand, currently being tested, for example, in Canada by Rogers Cable and in the UK by BT. This allows consumers to view a video of their choice at the time of their choice, effectively emulating a combination of a video cassette recorder and their local video shop, with a potentially limitless range of videos to view. A major cost here is the last one hundred metres from the local ‘hub’ or concentrator in the street into the house, where digging the trench is more expensive than the cable to put in it. If this has to be rewired it adds enormously to the expense.
There has been much speculation over High Definition Television (HDTV), taking the domestic television to full cinema quality. However, development has been held back by the failure of governments, manufacturers and broadcasters to agree on a global standard.
The market in mobile telephony continues to grow as sales volumes help to drive down costs and so create the potential for new groups of customers. For example, Mercury has launched One-2-One, a new low cost service, with free local calls between 20:00 and 08:00 weekdays and all-day at weekends. Increasingly mobile services are being used for data transmission linked to personal computers. At the top end of the market is INMARSAT, the International Maritime Satellite Organisation, which provides services to ships and to individuals such as news reporters for television stations such as Cable News Network (CNN). A global mobile telephony service is being developed by Iridium a consortium led by Motorola which will require some sixty satellites and offer a truly worldwide service; it will compete with similar services from INMARSAT, TRW and Bill Gates.
Table A.1 shows the capacity for data transmission and times taken to set up calls on a variety of networks while table A.2 shows how this has been translated into dramatic increases in capacity for Trans-Atlantic telephony.
Call speed call set-up times (bps) (seconds) modem (slow) 300 15 modem (fast) 14,400 15 KiloStream 64,000 4 ISDN basic 128,000 0.5 ISDN primary 2,068,000 0.5 ATM 25,000,000 0.2 IBC 150,000,000 0.1ISDN = Integrated Services Digital Network, ATM = Asynchronous Transfer Mode, IBC = Integrated Broadband Cable.
Year Name Cost per voice Capacity in channel (US $) (in voice channels) service 1956 TAT-1 557,000 89 1965 TAT-4 365,000 138 1970 TAT-5 49,000 1,440 1976 TAT-6 24,500 8,000 1983 TAT-7 23,000 8,400 1988 TAT-8 9,000 37,800 1989 PTAT 6,000 85,000 1992 TAT-9 5,500 75,600 1993 TAT-10 2,500 125,000 1993 TAT-11 2,000 125,000 1994 CANTAT-3 1,000 338,000 1996 TAT-12 1,000 600,000Sources: International Institute of Communications (1991) and Communications Week International.
When the personal computer was first launched in the late 1970s the market was limited to a few hobbyists. However, it was predicted that the personal computer would achieve the ubiquity of the telephone and that level has almost been reached. One market that has proved extremely difficult to crack has been the home computer, which is still dominated by games machines. Today, state-of-the-art workstations, a wider term than just personal computers, offer facilities once found only in specialised terminals for 3-D Computer Aided Design:
The ever faster adoption of new generations of processor chips is seen, for example, in the launch of Intel 486 and the Intel Pentium (586). The power of these chips has grown in line with Moore’s Law, which states that the number of components on a chip doubles every eighteen months and thus its processing power doubles. Similar stories are true for memory chips and for storage devices such as hard discs. Another crucial area of development has been in screen technology where advances in liquid crystal and plasma screens have made possible ultra-high resolution, light weight screens. Considerable efforts are being made to reduce the energy consumption of chips and to improve battery technology to extend the operational cycles of lap-top and palm-top machines.
Workstations are now, as a matter of course, networked to high-speed local and wide area networks, providing access to:
Sun Microsystems was a Silicon Valley ‘start-up’ to manufacture the Stanford Unix Networked workstation (SUN) based on the then new Motorola 68000 processor. One of the early keys to Sun’s success was the Network File Share (NFS) systems, allowing high power workstations to share disc space. Later Sun Microsystems developed its own very powerful RISC chips design, the SPARC, and then the SuperSPARC and HyperSPARC. The SPARCstation is a small footprint workstation with a SPARC chip inside it, giving it considerable processor power. The SPARCstation 20 operates at approx. 250 MIPS (Millions of Instructions Per Second), with a clock speed of 100 MHz and has 32 to 96 MB of RAM, a minimum of 525 MB of hard disk and costs £15,000 representing extremely good value. Sun have developed ShowMe™ to allow broadcast television to be shown in a scaleable window on the workstation, with a plug-in camera this facility can be used for desk-top video conferencing. To run application software developed for Microsoft Windows, such as Microsoft Office™ and Lotus SmartSuite™, there is Wabi™ which ‘emulates’ Windows.There has also been the launch of smaller machines, such as lap-top computers and hand-held devices such as the:
Apple Computer created the commercial market in personal computers in the late 1970s and redefined that market with its easy-to-use Macintosh, launched in 1984. The Apple PowerBook™ 180 is currently on sale for £1,849 monochrome and in colour for £1,999 (exclusive of VAT), complete with the Microsoft Office™ suite of software, including Word, Excel, Powerpoint and Mail. The PowerBook weighs 3 kilos and measures 136 x 186 x 59 millimetres. The battery life is 2.5 to 3 hours with the monochrome screen and 1.5 to 2 hours with colour. The technical specification is 4-14 Megabytes of RAM, 33 MHz Motorola 68030 processor with maths co-processor, to handle difficult calculations. It has a 120 Megabyte hard disc drive and 1.44 Megabyte floppy disc drive. The screen is 640 x 480 pixels. Two expansion slots are provided to take extras, one of which may be used for a modem for communications.Hewlett-Packard HP 200LX
In 1991 Hewlett-Packard, a well-established supplier of both computers and electronic calculators, launched a new product the HP 95LX™ which was both computer and calculator. It is a ‘palm-top’ device weighing 300 grams, with a screen of 16 lines by 40 characters. It has the Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet built-in, together with HP Calc, a business calculator to work out cash flows, net present values and other financial calculations. It also comes with the features of popular pocket organisers: appointment diary, telephone directory, memo-pad, file manager and communications program, allowing data to be exchanged with PCs and with other HP 95LXs. It has a range of plug-in cards for additional software. At the time of the launch, May 1991, the price was US$ 699. The 95LX was later replaced by the 100LX. In August 1994 the HP 200LX was launched, with additional software, including cc:Mail (electronic mail) and Quicken (tracking personal and business expenditure), data communications (terminal emulation) and with a PCMCIA-2 slot allowing the device to take peripherals and ‘add-ons’ originally intended for lap-top PC, e.g., a modem. The suite of tailored applications for the device is now over one thousand programs.Apple Newton
The Apple Newton™ is described by Apple Corporation as a MessagePad™. Locally it can communicate using an infra-red beam with another Newton, while the addition of a modem allows the sending of faxes and electronic mail. It allows users to take notes in their own handwriting, which it can convert, after a fashion, into typed characters. The software includes: notepad, diary and address book. It can be linked to both Apple Macintosh personal computers and PCs running Microsoft Windows™. The Newton is 185 x 115 x 20 millimetres, weighs 400 grams and costs around £500. The difficult question is to know whether it will ever succeed.There have been continued reductions in cost and increases in performance of computers. These are not small increases, but can be a factor of ten, which creates a discontinuity in applications, because it make possible whole new categories of applications.
The falling cost of processing power is shown in table A.3. One effect of this is to undermine the cost base of installed equipment. It is often financially worthwhile to replace equipment long before it ceases to work. Although some people argue that the “silicon is free” the problem is to reconcile this with the increasing expenditure on IT, primarily the explanation is the rising cost of human resources.
Year Number of annual salaries 1970 2,000 1980 210 1990 2 2000 0.125 (estimate)MIPS = Millions of Instructions Per Second.
Many information systems extend beyond the boundaries of the organisation and consequently rely on the co-operation of different organisations and individuals, such as:
Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) is the electronic exchange of purchase orders, delivery notes, invoices and so on between trading partners. It is a very structured form of communication intended to interconnect information systems avoiding the re-keying of data.
Electronic conferencing can use voice, voice and white board or video. It has been around for many years now, but only with its appearance on the desktop is it becoming successful. It still has many problems for users who lack the social cues they have in everyday meetings.
In larger organisations, the development of information technology architectures includes:
However exciting the technological developments, their success relies on adoption by individuals and organisations. Only through high volumes of sales can the suppliers achieve the fall in manufacturing costs that allows them to create a mass market which allows them to gather the profits to ensure their survival. Adoption by consumers faces many barriers (see table A.3).
Enablers Inhibitors General Technological advances Communications Powerful, transparent Effective network management networks internal networks Distributed database Easy access to distributed Effectiveness of software capability data Data management policies Capability of data dictionaries Installed base Workstations Ubiquitous, networked Interface with data and workstations knowledge bases Artificial intelligence & Cognitive support and facilitation expert systems to simplify usage and access to data network resources IT architecture Integration of existing Application architecture for operational systems organizational flexibility IT infrastructure Improved group processes Effective IT standards /usage and performance General productivity IT-literate and IT-championing Support of management management processes Systems investment rationale User attitude-readiness Quality of IT worforceSource: Madnick in Scott Morton (1991) page 39.
Scott Morton, M S (1991) “The Corporation of the 1990s” Oxford University Press, New York.
Andersen Consulting (1993) “Trends in Information Technology” McGraw-Hill, London.
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