If users are going to run multimedia applications via the Web, they don't just need software, they need the links to the Internet that will provide them with bandwidth to achieve full-motion video. While cable companies like Videotron are looking into providing that bandwidth to the home, the commercial case is less than compelling. Without a killer application in the foreseeable future, such as home banking, cable modem sales are stalled.
For the intranet, there are a number of technologies that will make the corporate Web browser outstrip its stay-at-home cousin; the most important are the switched network technologies. The most important of those is ATM.
But ATM vendors are seeing negligible pull from users for ATM to the desktop to provide networked multimedia yet. 'If you need anything more than data at the desktop, then in the long term you will need ATM,' says IBM UK director of network systems Andy Greaves. 'Yet most of our customers' constraints are not about delivering multimedia, but about a clogged-up server. But you look at the intranet, and to support multimedia you need a high-speed network. Unlike a modem connection, you need to press a button and, bang, the information is there. You can't download it first.'
Garry Smith, the unusually monickered 'convergence activist' at CTI vendor Mitel has a vested interest in networked multimedia becoming popular.
He's not yet convinced the intranet can support multimedia. 'The current level of network technology allows little more than passing basic information between two people. The missing piece for us is the lack of an agreed standard for voice data over the network.'
If the ATM hype becomes reality, then companies will be in a position to build multimedia-capable intranets. Until then, there will be few sites with the richness of content to deserve the description.
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