Three questions to… Dr Hellmuth Brode

Interview by Paul Carslake

Dr Hellmuth Broda, chief technologist for Sun Microsystems, Europe.

Q: Many companies are still reluctant to grant internet access to employees – even professional engineers. What would you say to them?

A: I cannot work without web access. But do I spend time surfing? Absolutely not. I hardly get time to even check my e-mail. OK, first time around someone might log on to some site, look at some nude girl. But so what? It becomes boring. If people are monkeying around on the internet, that’s a motivational problem. But denying them web access is about as sensible as not giving someone access to a phone.

Q: Will web conferencing eventually replace travel?

A: No. For people to successfully use web conferences, they have to know each other personally. It’s a great tool, but it only works when those involved have consumed at least four pints of beer together – got to know each other properly. Otherwise it just becomes high-level hot air and no-one expresses what they really think because the trust is not there. The quality of letters between penpals is always different after they have met.

Q: So how can e-business thrive without that personal touch?

A: You need to personalise it. Users of a site need to be recognised by the owner of that site. If serious business is to take place, users need to meet each other for real. Maybe we don’t cherish enough what used to be the old boy network. Maybe we need to try to create a similar thing on the internet.