SAN FRANCISCO -- Cut to the chase already!
"You want me to say what I'm going to buy and how much of it," joked
Chief Technology Officer Fred Briggs as he stepped to the podium with a smile at the
Robertson Stephens Tech 2001 Conference
Monday. "Then we can just go right to the breakout session."
Sounds about right. Our pens are at the ready.
If only WorldCom could be that straightforward. Instead, Briggs was our tour guide on a meandering walk through technology. We learned about the train system. We learned how Chicago became a shipping hub over Tucson, Ariz. We learned how chiefs in the Amazon are getting their first taste of phone calling, and they like it! We learned that Briggs really likes the Internet alarm clock that can check the morning traffic and let you sleep for 15 more minutes if it's good. And thank God, with a capital G and several exclamation points, that Briggs told us that
get more traffic in a day than the
Mall of America
does in a week.
Eureka! Hot wings in a chicken basket, investors had to know coming to this presentation would be worthwhile.
Wandering back into the world of technology and information you might possibly be interested in, Briggs expressed real enthusiasm for DSL, or digital subscriber lines. He thinks DSL, a form of broadband, will get its act together in 12 to 18 months, as self-installing software and the ability to share a phone line for DSL and your voice calls make the installation process worlds better. He is also a big fan of the new peer-to-peer computing -- though it's not quite clear what that has to do with WorldCom -- but Briggs is very excited about 2.5 million computers donating their downtime to the search for life in the universe.
As for that initially advertised spending number, in the breakout Q&A, Briggs detailed how WorldCom is spending $8 billion on its network. (Last week, the company
said it was spending $8.5 billion. We'll assume his Internet alarm clock woke him up 20 minutes late, and in his rush he left $500 million on his pillow.) None of it will go to old-time narrowband network switches, an increasing amount will be spent on Web hosting infrastructure (it spent $1.2 billion on this segment in 2000 and owns a big chunk of hosting player
), and Briggs maintained that "on an absolute level I don't see that changing."
Now, can you explain a little more about Tucson?