LONG BEACH, Calif. --
Napster will lose. Guaranteed.
Or so says Steve Heckler, senior vice president of Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc., who spoke to more than 1,200 educators, researchers and other computing experts at a conference hosted by Cal State Long Beach this past weekend.
Heckler gave a multimedia presentation on how he saw the future of his industry and information technology developing during his keynote address at the opulent Westin Hotel in downtown Long Beach.
However, some of his most interesting comments came after his formal speech when he was approached by a small number of audience members. One asked about his company's fight against Napster.
"The [music] industry," Heckler said, "will take whatever steps it needs to protect itself and protect its revenue streams. It will not lose that revenue stream, no matter what."
Sony and other music-industry conglomerates have filed suit against Napster -- alleging that its Website, which allows users to download music for free, violates copyright law.
Napster continues to operate while a federal appeals court ponders the lawsuit. A ruling is expected in October.
"Sony is going to take aggressive steps to stop this," Heckler told the Summer Forty-Niner. "We will develop technology that transcends the individual user. We will firewall Napster at source -- we will block it at your cable company, we will block it at your phone company, we will block it at your [Internet-service provider]. We will firewall it at your PC.
"These strategies," Heckler said, "are being aggressively pursued because there is simply too much at stake."
Heckler's presentation was the centerpiece of Americas Conference on Information Systems 2000, which attracted computing professionals from 50 countries.
It was the first time a non-doctoral institution hosted the event, which was chaired by CSULB information-systems professor H. Michael Chung.
"Facing the challenges of the digital economy, we placed a special emphasis this year on emerging applications, business transformation and interdisciplinary areas in management," said Chung, who was honored for his work just prior to Heckler's keynote address.
Heckler did not break significant ground in his presentation, in which he in part forecast the impact of the digital revolution on the home. Echoing other experts, Heckler said various digital tools will "undoubtedly" merge eventually into one multifunctional device, referring to it as "digital convergence."
To the laughter of audience members, Heckler suggested, only half-jokingly, that that device would be the Sony PlayStation2, which debuted on March 4 of this year and plays movies, music and games on both audio CD and DVD-video formats.
Sony has actively encouraged this development by publicly releasing software that allows for independent content creation.
"What we're saying [to software developers] is that all these kids [worldwide] have Play-Stations," Heckler said. "So don't fight it. Join it."
While Heckler believes the single PlayStation2-like device will expand to support personal-computing and Internet functions, he also saw no end to the life of old home technologies such as VCRs and televisions.
"They will be around for a long time," Heckler said.
While Heckler spoke, dozens of other conference participants networked at the hotel's large restaurant area -- many exchanging ideas and information, others obviously involved in job interviews.
Making the scene a bit surreal was the intermingling conference attendees with a number of straw-hat wearing delegates who were attending the Reform Party Convention across the street from the Westin at the Long Beach Convention Center and the later arrival of the president of Taiwan, Chen Shau-bian, at the hotel.
In the midst of all this, CSULB student security officers wearing faded blue polo shirts and carrying walkie-talkies patrolled the Westin among the well-dressed conference participants and other hotel guests.