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Web clicks in
Tuesday, April 21, 1998 (The Age – Business, The World & Breaking News)


ELECTRONIC business, much more than electronic commerce, was now driving development of the World Wide Web, said John Patrick, IBM’s vice-president of Internet technology, speaking in Brisbane last week to the seventh annual conference of the World Wide Web Consortium.

“The opportunities are overwhelming. e-Business is much broader than e-commerce. E-commerce is click here to buy. e-Business is click here to initiate a supply chain,” he said.

“It is click here to start just-in-time inventory flow between companies, click here to enroll in university, click here to design your curriculum, click here to grant a degree. It is a broader, enabling set of things and it tends to occur along three axes – content, commerce and collaboration.”

One of the most important issues of content was expectation. People still thought developing a film in one hour was impressive, but when pictures took 45 seconds to download after the Pathfinder space vehicle landed on Mars they were impatient, Patrick said. Response on the Web had to be instantaneous. “It puts a lot of heat on us all as businesses, governments and institutions to deliver services in new and creative ways.

“Governments in particular have a tremendous opportunity. Who likes to stand in line to renew their driver’s license? In some places you may now do it over the Internet.”

Another dimension of content had to do with aggregation of information, he said. It meant crawlers on the Web continually looking for answers to your queries. Culture was also important and the access to culture the Web could give.

“Sharing of culture can be very powerful. Only 1000 people a year can visit the Vatican library, but on the Web now you may make a virtual visit and see the works of Aristotle and the letters of Henry VIII to Anne Boleyn. With the Web cultures can be spread and shared.”

In commerce, while consumer purchasing was booming, the movement burgeoning behind those scenes was potentially much more important, Patrick said. These would be extranet applications that provided business-to-business efficiencies that led to more competition, more product selection and more interaction.

The Web was creating new kinds of business. Patrick quoted a New York based company, Intralinks, that facilitated the financing of large business loans by making a Web site available for bankers to meet and form syndicates. “The 400 participating banks say their savings are 30 per cent and the loan values traded in the first six months of Intralinks being in business is $US50 billion.”

In collaboration on the Web all kinds of developments were occurring: police forces reaching out to their communities, indices of governmental activity being built, people getting together to share interests, business, and needs of all kinds, he said.

Three megatrends underpinned the worldwide move towards e-business, he said. First, there was the natural evolution of an all-encompassing new medium. “This is a rich new medium that will facilitate natural human interaction. We will have a pipe connected to our home, our business and through it will flow pieces of information – pieces of Web pages, of telephone conversations, e-mail, radio and television programs and interactive video conferencing. Huge numbers of people will be connected, perhaps a billion.

“Does that mean a billion people with PCs? It is not that simple. It will be the PC and the NC, the PDA, the car, the pager, the phone and the kiosk. Particularly the kiosk because it gives potential for universal access – kiosks in churches, in schools, on street corners, in factories – kiosks in the jungle.”

The second great trend sweeping the world was that the Web was putting the individual in charge, Patrick said. “This is power to the people. No longer will editors decide what we should read and when. We will decide. We will decide when businesses should be open. If we want to open our bank account at 3am on a Saturday, we, not the bank, will decide.”

The third megatrend was the concept of Web-centric marketing, he said. Today business might have a Web page that was their brochure and they might offer a connection to their IT core. “But there is a juxtaposition coming that will make the Web the center of gravity,” Patrick said. “That’s where all the people are.”

Business people should start with the people and work their way back to the core business system, not the other way about.

The above article appeared in The Age on the Tuesday, April 21st and can be found here.