Three Minutes: Internet Pioneer Looks Ahead

Leonard Kleinrock is emeritus professor of computer science at the University of California, Los Angeles. He created the basic principles of packet switching, the foundation of the Internet, while a graduate student at MIT, where he earned a Ph.D. in 1963. The Los Angeles Times in 1999 called him one of the "50 people who most influenced business this century."

PC World's sister publication, Computerworld, interviewed Kleinrock in 1994 as part of the Internet's 25th anniversary celebration. Recently, it asked Kleinrock for an update.

CW: You told Computerworld 11 years ago that the Internet needed, among other things, "a proper security framework." What about today?

Kleinrock: In the past 11 years, things have gotten far worse, so much so that there are parts of the population that are beginning to question whether the pain they are encountering with spam, viruses, and so on is worth the benefit. I don't think there's a silver bullet. We need systemwide solutions. Strong authentication will help. IPv6 will help. Identifying the source of information--a networking issue--to make sure it's not being spoofed will help.

CW: You called for better multimedia capabilities in 1994 as well.

Kleinrock: One of the major changes related to multimedia in these 11 years has been the explosion of what we call the "mobile Internet." There's this ability now to travel from one location to another and gain access to a rich set of services as easily as you can from your office. The digitization of nearly all content and the convergence of function and content on really smart handheld devices are beginning to enable anytime, anywhere, by anyone Internet--the mobile Internet. But there is a lot more to be done.

CW: Such as?

Kleinrock: We have to make it easier for people to move from place to place and get access. What's missing is the billing and authentication interface that allows one to identify oneself easily in a global, mobile, roaming fashion. We [will] see this change to an alternate pricing model where people can subscribe to a Wi-Fi roaming service offered by their company or from their home ISP.

As these roaming agreements are forged between the subscription provider and the owners/operators of today's disparate public-access networks, the effective number of locations where a subscriber will be able to connect at no or low fee will grow. A key component in this environment is internetwork interoperability, not only for data traffic but for authentication and billing. The benefits will be ease of use and predictable cost.

CW: You mentioned smart handheld devices. Where are they going?

Kleinrock: We are seeing your phone, PDA, GPS, camera, e-mail, pager, walkie-talkie, TV, radio, all converging on this handheld device, which you carry around in addition to your laptop. It will [alter the properties of] a lot of content--video, images, music--to match what's come down to the particular device you have. For example, you may be using your handheld cell phone to serve as a passthrough device to receive an image or video that you wish to display on some other output device--say, your PC or your TV. The handheld may need to "dumb down" the image for itself but pass the high-quality stream to the TV, which will render the stream to match its--the TV's--display capability.

CW: Is that capability of interest to corporate IT?

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