As ironic as it seems, if there is a theme for ISP2000, it is "The Future of ASPs."
It is clear that not everybody is enjoying the ASP (application service provider) theme, as evidenced by this audience comment during a question-and-answer session: "I thought this was called ISP2000, not ASP2000."
But the objection didn't stop the discussion or change the subject.
"In the 21st century business environment, ASPs will not be a fad; they'll be a foundation," Mike McTighe, chief executive officer of Cable & Wireless PLC's Global Operations unit said in his keynote this morning. "Pretty soon, being an ISP (Internet service provider) alone won't be enough."
Although the term ASP is on everybody's lips, it's not an easy one to define. ASP has almost become as much of a catch-all phrase as "e-business."
"If we have 400 people in the room, we'll have 400 definitions of ASP," McTighe said.
A broad definition of an ASP is any company offering access via the Internet to applications that would otherwise have to be located on their own computers.
The general consensus here today is that large ISPs will be the first to make the move to the ASP model, either because they see the long-term advantages or simply because they know they have to get with the program or risk losing business.
"This still isn't a valid play for the small ISPs, because they lack the scalability needed to start as an ASP," said Pat Chapman-Picher, senior vice president of EMEA for MCI WorldCom's UUNet. "But you'll see a lot of legacy companies get into it, because they're afraid of being left behind."
A more difficult question is which applications will be offered.
"The newer applications riding around the fringe will probably be the first ones to jump on board the ASP model when it becomes more widespread," said Scott Smith, director of European research for Yankee Group.
Smith had the most radical view of the afternoon for the audience. "In five years, you (ISPs) won't be in the business you're in now, or you won't be in business at all."
ISP2000 continues through Thursday in Amsterdam; more information can be found at http://www.isp2000europe.com/.