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MAKING IT BETTER: EXPANDING INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY RESEARCH TO MEET SOCIETY'S NEEDS
pursue research with long-term implications for the company that also may also feed into ongoing development projects.27 Systems to check spelling and grammar, assist users in real time, facilitate remote collaboration, and translate among languages are among the fruits of Microsoft's R&D that have been commercialized; more speculative work includes efforts to develop a tablet computer—a portable, wireless device without a keyboard that could serve a range of personal computing and communications purposes—and to develop large-scale-image databases with intuitive interfaces (Markoff, 1999; Barclay et al., 1999).
Gaps in the Research Base: Systems Integration
As noted in an earlier report by the Computer Science and Telecommunications Board (CSTB, 1992), systems integration first became an issue in the 1960s, when federal agencies began hiring contractors to design large-scale systems for data processing, communications, and aerospace and defense applications. Over the next 40 years, the emergence of distributed personal computing, local area networks, and, more recently, the Internet, drove a growing need for systems integration. The integration challenge goes beyond making incompatible machines communicate with each other; it is a problem-solving activity that harnesses and coordinates the power and capabilities of IT to meet customers' needs. The result is generally one-of-a-kind systems that increase productivity, flexibility, responsiveness, and competitive advantage. Considerable effort is expended on customized consulting—modification, interfacing, coding, and installing hardware and software—to integrate the individual components into a cohesive whole.
Systems integration is now a thriving U.S. industry that is finding new opportunities in the efforts across the economy to engage in e-commerce. Total revenues for custom integrated system design and custom programming services topped $76 billion in 1997, up from $34 billion in 1990.28 Different types of firms provide such services. Companies such as Andersen Consulting, Electronic Data Services (EDS), and Computer Sciences Corporation earn the majority of their revenues from systems integration activities. Many of the large accounting/business services firms, including PricewaterhouseCoopers, KPMG, and Ernst & Young, also have established systems integration and services practices. Large diversified computer manufacturers, such as IBM and Hewlett-Packard, have moved into systems integration and related services, creating new divisions for these activities. IBM's Global Services Division is the fastest-growing part of the company; its revenues increased almost 30 percent between 1997 and 1999 and accounted for 37 percent of the company's revenues in 1999. Also participating in the industry are a number of defense contractors,