Google, 3Com address IT business problems

Top executives from Google Inc. and 3Com Corp. took their best shots today at summing up what the IT industry could do to improve its business prospects after all that went wrong last year.

Speaking at the annual meeting of the Massachusetts Software and Internet Council Inc., Eric Schmidt, chairman and CEO of Mountain View, Calif.-based Google, said the technology trend bandwagon has fallen woefully short of finding the new killer applications that can capture the attention of corporate users.

Schmidt, who took over as CEO at the Internet search engine vendor last summer after giving up a similar job at Novell Inc., pointed to new technologies such as Java 2 Enterprise Edition, XML, Simple Object Access Protocol and Microsoft Corp.’s .Net as examples of ideas that haven’t fully realized their potential.

“In most cases, the killer app didn’t arrive,” Schmidt said. “Why don’t people just pick the best technology, underprice the market, lose some money for the first six months and gain market share? Why not be aggressive?”

Eric Benhamou, chairman of both 3Com Corp. and Palm Inc., also spoke at today’s meeting. Benhamou focused on a topic that has become a key priority for many high-tech industry executives, the proposed development of nationwide broadband communications capabilities.

“It’s a national imperative that we create and adopt a broadband policy,” Benhamou told the audience. “Most European countries have [already] adopted a policy like this.” He added that more government leadership will be required on the broadband issue, echoing lobbying efforts by several industry CEOs last week in Washington.

Benhamou, who is also interim CEO of Santa Clara, Calif.-based Palm, lambasted telecommunications vendors for what he described as “investment blunders” last year, claiming that they spent huge amounts of money on fiber-optic backbones that so far have largely gone unused. He blamed “last mile” connectivity problems that affect businesses and home users alike on a lack of broadband connections.

Benhamou also warned attendees about an increased risk of cyberterrorism, using recent study data from the University of Delaware to draw a correlation between physical terrorist attacks and online incidents. “I think we’re all going to have to investigate our vulnerability to cyberattacks,” he said.