Gates Showcases West at Comdex
by Monica Bay
WEST Groupies were ecstatic when word spread that Microsoft Corp.'s Bill Gates was going to mention the company during his Nov. 12 keynote address at Las Vegas' Comdex (the mother of all technology tradeshows).
Corporate communications director John Shaughnessy and other honchos immediately scrambled for plane tickets.
But Shaughnessy and the rest of us were stunned when Gates didn't just mention West's efforts -- he devoted a segment of the 90-minute keynote to introduce Microsoft's new alliance with West. Gates first set the stage by predicting that the Next Big Thing will be pendulum swing to "peer-to-peer" computing, and increasing use of XML language, which will enable more software-to-software transactions. (Think Napster on steroids.)
This will allow server-to-server exchange of information, with the ability to control the information that is shared, he said. As an example, he demonstrated a hypothetical travel agency Web site that could pull airline and car rental information from other sites.
Gates then handed the stage to Tom Bailey to show how the next version of Microsoft's Office Suite will incorporate the new peer-to-peer technology.
Bailey used Westlaw to demonstrate Redmond's new "Smart Tags," which "enable third parties to now go out, and essentially . . . tailor Office to meet the specific needs of organizations or entire industries."
West, Bailey told the overflow audience at MGM's huge Garden Arena, used prototype Smart Tags to allow users to access its services. "If I hover over a case citation in a legal document . . . I can go out to West's Web site and find that particular citation," he noted.
The Smart Tag also allow users to identify references and to click on a word and get an instant definition from Black's Legal Dictionary. Bailey's demo was illustrated by gigantic videoscreens filled with Westlaw pages.
West Group president Michael Wilens was thrilled. "Early on, we had to decide on being a Web pure-play, or bet on Microsoft's Exchange infrastructure, Wilens told LTN. "We decided to strategically partner with Microsoft." The alliance, he says, offers numerous advantages, including access to third party tools. "Most importantly, it put us on a platform that will rapidly grow as Microsoft evolves its '.NET' strategy."
Continuing the Theme
The next morning, Hewlett-Packard president and CEO Carleton "Carly" Fiorina continued the theme of peer-to-peer, and also forecast the increasing importance of XML. She focused on the increasing services for mobile workers.
"The lesson here is that the real transformation comes form an understanding of the linkages, the relationships, the intersection," she said. "And it's by understanding the relationships between these that business master the key drivers of competitive success -- namely, first, how to transform a customer experience. "Second, how to transform value creation, and finally, in the process, transform entire industries," Fiorina said.
Practicising Law Institute held a gala reception on Nov. 16, to celebrate the opening of its new PLI California Center high tech conference facility in San Francisco. It features a main room with seating for 170, and state-of-the-art multimedia equipment, including audio and video taping capabilities.
PLI board of trustees
Among the celebrants, Dean Criddle, of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe; Henry Hecht, of the University. of Calif.'s Boalt Hall; BASF's Tanya Neiman and Drucilla Ramey; Golden Gate University law school dean Peter Keane; as well as a few out-of-towners: Gregory McConnell, of the American Bar Association's Center for Pro Bono; and Eleanor Eisenberg, of the Arizona
Civil Liberties Union.
Particular kudos to executive chef Glenn Vatchell of Now We're Cooking, who provided some of the most unusual hors d'hoeuvres seen of late, including "Malibu Mashed Potatoes," served in martini glasses.
Back to the Future
Allison Walsh soon will be back in the legal fold. Microsoft's Walsh (formerly its legal industry manager, but then moved to another business unit) is leaving the mothership to join San Francisco's Workshare Technology, as vice president of business development. (The company is best known for its DeltaView document comparison software.) Walsh, who will stay in Seattle, will establish a team to extend the company's efforts both within legal and in industries outside of legal.
Watch This Space
Duncan Sutherland confirms that he has left his MIS post at Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering, in Washington, D.C. His next stop is in final stages of negotiation, but we keep hearing that he may be Bay Area bound. We'll keep you posted.
Have you found www.google.com yet? My favorite part is the "I'm Feeling Lucky" button where you can gamble that the software will take you to exactly the right spot on one hit. Check it out!
On the Spot
West Group's Loren Jones was kind enough to allow me to put him on the spot during the closing sessions of Legal Tech Chicago. Our panel, on Application Service Providers in large firm environments, featured the ubiquitous Don Murray, of ELF Technologies; Scott Twinell of ASPORA, and Dennis Gerrity, of Syndet Business Technologies. We yanked Jones out of the audience to report on the latest from WestWorks. It was a lively and informative session -- thanks to all!
From left: Don Murray, ELF Technologies; Dennis Gerrity, Syndet Business Technologies, L.C.; Scott Twibell, ASPORA;
Sandra Geller and John Mola, of PLI
Mary Viviano, State Bar of California, and Lindbergh Porter Jr., Allen Matkins Leck Gamble & Mallory L.L.P.
Gretchen DeSutter and Loren Jones, West Group.
Because I recently whined about the lack of tech support while on the road, I must heap praise on San Francisco's The Happy Mac, a shop I discovered when, at 6 a.m., my laptop's Mac 9.0 OS went into a coma. I yanked out the Yellow Pages, expecting an answering machine for my call for promised 24/7 tech support. But I got proprietor John Andrews, who (without first demanding a credit card) walked me through some diagnostics before agreeing that my Powerbook needed hospitalization. That's not all: Once the shop opened at 10 a.m., he took care of me on the spot, at a very reasonable price ($85/hour plus a $50 rush fee). I was back on the road in one hour flat. That's service! 415-337-4090.