Editorial Comment
June 21, 2001


Mr. Watson, come here. I want you." Hearing those words transmitted over an apparatus being tested by Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas A. Watson realized that his boss, Mr. Bell, had at last successfully developed the telephone. Mr. Bell had not intended to have the terse request be the first words uttered over his invention. However, he blurted them out in surprise when he accidentally spilled acid as he prepared for the test. The rest is history. What isn't history is the conversation that followed.
Watson: Mr. Bell! We have just invented the telephone! What a glorious day!
Bell: Yes, we have. But we aren't going to call this apparatus a telephone. That wouldn't fit our business model. We will call it a telecommunications device. We don't want people to call our firm a telephone company. We want them to call us a telecommunications service provider.
Watson: But Mr. Bell, why use such stupid obfuscation? It's a telephone. And we will have a telephone company.
Bell: You just don't get it. Ever since the telegraph was invented, we have been in the midst of a digital revolution. The Morse Code, Watson that's digital. This contraption I've invented is analog. We have started an analog revolution. The whole country will be wired. Everyone will get online, or else they will be left behind.
Watson: That means we will have to get a means to connect these online users. We can hire ladies to operate our network and help our users log on. We can call these ladies "operators."
Bell: We can't call them "operators," Watson. What we are dealing with here is electronics. We will refer to these ladies as real-time voice interfaces. We will promote our telecommunications device as being voice-enabled. You see, Watson, everyone wants to be enabled today.Watson: As you say, sir, but down the road I'm sure we'll be able to get rid of the ladies and let people get online by dialing a number on a rotary device.
Bell: Now you're cooking, dude. And we'll promote the dial as an enhanced functionality solution. Everyone wants functionality today. They especially want enhanced functionality, and most of all they want enhanced functionality solutions.
Watson: When we invent the dial, we'll have to assign numbers to our customers, and we can list the numbers in a publication called a phone book.
Bell: Wrong, Watson. That book of numbers will be called a hard-copy application enabler. And if you don't have a hard-copy enabler, you can ask our voice interface to look up the number, and that will allow her to provide online help in real time. That will provide even more enhanced functionality.
Watson: We may disagree on words, Mr. Bell, but I think we agree that our telecommunications device will change how people do business.
Bell: Right. People will be able to ring up our voice interface and buy things online. This will be referred to as, "calling in an order," and that, in turn, will let users form collaborative supply chains. Of course, some potential users won't understand our telecommunications device, and they will set up cultural barriers to change. By the way, I agree that the asinine vocabulary I've been using makes me sound like an imbecile. But I have a premonition. Some day everyone will talk like this, regardless of whether they are users, providers, enablers, or enhancers. So get used to it. Don't set up cultural barriers to change, Watson. Get ready for a new paradigm.
-- Ronald Khol, Editor