CAMBRIDGE, MASS. (06/02/2000) - After Andy Grove offered advice to government, individuals and industry regarding how to use the positive benefits of the Internet and avoid the negative aspects of cyberspace, a Harvard University business student decided to seek a "dot-com" tip from the Intel Corp. chairman after his keynote speech here today.
Like countless other students, the young man is tempted to start a dot-com company, and he wanted to know Grove's view on doing so. But before he would answer, Grove asked the student if he would be so tempted were it not for the surge in dot-coms that have turned their founders into millionaires. The student hedged for a split second and then claimed that he probably would be interested even without the lucrative financial prospects.
"If you would be equally tempted by the technology, I would say go for it," Grove said during the question-and-answer session that followed his talk at the biannual Harvard Internet & Society conference. Then, Grove added what seemed an even better tip regarding the student's motivation: "You don't have to be honest with all of us, but you have to be honest with yourself."
To existing businesses, he had this to say: "Talk less, which is an ironic thing for a keynote speaker to say, and do more."
Technology companies need to return to the basics and "realize that a software feature is not a product," and that a feature does not a company make, Grove said. Too many companies have sprung up to provide just one feature or one service rather than a total product, but such a business model is "self limiting" because it forces users to buy multiple pieces and then assemble what it is they want.
"They do not solve real business problems" with that kind of piecemeal approach, he said.
The Internet has further led to "messy and unpredictable and difficult-to-control circumstances," Grove said, noting that Napster Inc. is one such example. Napster, created by a 19-year-old, is a software application used to download MP3 files. The heavy-metal rock band Metallica and its music company have sued Napster and three universities, arguing that the defendants are encouraging and enabling users of the Napster Web site to exchange copyrighted material with each other for free.
While Grove said that it's vital to make information available to a lot of people over the Internet, "the messy part is that information is someone else's intellectual property."
If he were the owner of intellectual property that was being threatened "then I would go and try to figure out how can I lower the barrier to people being honest," he said during the question-and-answer period. His advice is that companies figure out how to make information available at the lowest possible cost.
Using Napster as an example multiple times in his speech and during the query session, Grove said, "I do not think that any strategy that is based on suppressing something that cannot be suppressed will work."
He further advised that individuals embrace the Internet, including the aspects that are "scary."
"Altogether, the Internet is a barrier buster," Grove said, noting that the Net can strip away barriers caused by income, education and geography.
As such, he would like to see governments encourage Internet access and the growth of the Net and electronic commerce by not imposing restrictions, by removing trade barriers and, specifically in the U.S., by loosening controls on computer exports.
His overarching advice to governments regarding the Internet is to apply a sort of technological Hippocratic Oath of "First, do no harm."
That suggestion led to a question for which Grove would not offer his thoughts.
CIO Magazine publisher Gary Beach asked if, in Grove's view, the government has followed that advice in its antitrust case against Microsoft Corp.
"If you don't mind," Grove said, "I will resist the very, very clever way to get my comment on the record about the Microsoft case."
The Harvard Internet & Society conference ended today. Information about the conference can be found at http://www.I2K.harvard.edu/.