NetWatch

Issue No 4

5 February 1997


GLOBAL VILLAGE

Israel takes to the Internet.

Israel has had a number of Internet success stories and it looks as though they are just beginning. Orckit first began making digital subscriber line systems in 1994 now focuses on connecting telcos with their Internet users. Similarly, Accent Software, a leading supplier of multilingual software for the Net based in Jerusalem, built its name by developing a Hebrew-language word processor. And VocalTec, the leading Internet telephony company, began life as a voice card manufacturer in Herzeliyya" I don't think any serious software or hardware companies in Israel aren't working on or considering Internet applications," said David Rubin, Israel's economic minister to North America. "The Internet is the blessing that high-tech, faraway countries have been looking for," said Rubin. Israeli companies traditionally have been globally oriented because of the small size of the domestic market, but in the past, technology companies with strong products have been unable to compete as successfully in the huge American market because of the distances involved. With the Internet, it often doesn't matter where a business is physically located-if a company has a Web site and a FAQ, and can answer e-mail in a reasonable amount of time, it's starting from the same place as a Silicon Valley start-up.

Arabic Web Sites, Tools More Readily Accessible

The number of Arabic-language Web sites is growing exponentially. One major guide to the Arabic Internet, 1001 Sites, currently lists well over 500 Web sites, an increase of over 15% in the past month. Some Arabic Internet developers have recently established their own Web site at CyberArab. The key to Internet use and Web access in the Arab world is trouble-free bilingual browsing. Companies like Cairo-based Sakhr Software are now distributing Arabic-language Internet software via Web sites as well as on disk through BYTE Magazine and PC Magazine's Arabic editions.

New Web Tools Make Internet "Thai-Friendly"

Thai Net users no longer need to be frustrated at the lack of browsing tools available for viewing content written in their language. They can now use a beta version of the Internet Explorer Thai Version, Thai fonts from Netscape Navigator, or other software from companies like Accent.

SERVICES ON-LINE

The head hunters are coming.

If you're an employer or recruiter, Software Technology's Web site lets you post job openings. And, if you're looking for a job, you can post your resume on the site as well. It's at http://www.HeadHunter.NET . The site lets job hunters narrow searches in various ways, including geographically. ``Our goal is to become a universal resource for people seeking employment opportunities in every field,'' said Warren Bare, president and founder of Software Technology Corp.

Quote

Paul Saffo, director of the Institute for the Future, "Individuals will not be overshadowed on-line. ``People are endlessly fascinated with each other,'' he says. ``The next big change is away from the Web as information to the Web as interpersonal communication. This a revolution less about information than conversation.''

DOING BUSINESS

Options - Systems for shops going on the Internet.

Netscape is going with Actra Business Systems and their Commerce Manager portfolio which will include the Business Document Gateway, designed to allow Internet commerce sites to link with existing EDI systems. This will allow companies to migrate their existing business-to-business purchasing systems to the Web more easily. The Commerce Manager portfolio will consist of applications that ride on top of this gateway for both retail and business-to-business commerce. Order Expert Seller will provide companies with an application and product-catalogue templates for business-to-business Web sales. Order Expert Buyer will be the complementary purchasing application. Actra Merchant System will provide an upgraded retail storefront application.

Microsoft is also hard at work improving its current merchant server solution. John Browne, Internet commerce product manager at Microsoft, said a lot of would-be online retailers are concerned about pulling all the technical pieces together-payment, security, ordering, fulfilment, and linking to legacy systems. "These are potentially huge problems," he said, admitting that even Microsoft's Merchant Server 1.0, which shipped late last year, does not adequately address them. Merchant Server 2.0 would also offer new storefront-creation wizards, additional templates, and other tools to help the site builder.

Mercantec's SoftCart is a virtual shopping cart that keeps state information about customers during a session by assigning individual shopper ID numbers that are invisible to the user. It offers numerous options for integrating with back-end systems, including product, order placement, and fulfilment databases. SoftCart supports several payment systems, including CyberCash, First Virtual, CheckFree, DigiCash, and others. SoftCart 3.0 will be shipping during the first quarter. Written in ANSI C, it requires no CGI, Perl, or C programming to set it up. SoftCart offers options for linking to accounting systems, tax services, and shipping and fulfillment services, including those from Federal Express and UPS. SoftCart provides a customisable sample storefront.

NetConsult Communications Inc., Burlingame, Calif., is beginning a big push with Intershop Online, which currently offers a storefront, back-end administrative services, and various marketing features. Version 2.0 will offer catalogue templates, a product database, store management software, order payment and processing, and several marketing and sales tools. Early users include Hewlett-Packard and Siemens Nixdorf. Intershop Online supports the CyberCash payment system and will add other payment systems in the next version.

NUTS AND BOLTS

Those Cable TV people are at it again

A point for those Adelaidians who abhor those cables being strung out on the telephone lines. Those places where the cables have already been laid are getting some value at last. Community Networks, Inc., a division of BTG Inc. will work with a company called ichat for chat room, real time communications and Internet development for its new cable online subscriber services in Austin, Texas. "We are extending our popular NetPartners program to include ichat," said Adrienne Cox, director of marketing and sales for CNI.

Through this program, CNI has been working closely with national content providers, applications technology firms and hardware manufacturers (cable modems) in marketing to network operators and cable television system operators. "Community Networks applauds the creativity of companies like ichat," added Cox. "The ichat experience is fun, making the Internet more germane to real people, and our company's penchant for seeking the best high technology partners made us decide to offer the ichat link."

That will be the phone.

Other electronics firms hope to bring the Internet home by targeting the telephone rather than the television. Next year the Israeli company Infogear will introduce a line of telephones with built-in video screens and keyboards. The phone will allow the user to visit Web pages and type electronic mail messages to anyone on the Internet. A number of other firms, including the Korean conglomerate Samsung, are planning similar devices.

Jeff Oscodar, Infogear's vice president of business development, thinks that e-mail, not Web access, will drive consumer acceptance of the Internet. Even though WebTV users can send and receive e-mail messages, Oscodar believes that most people will prefer using their telephone as an Internet message centre. ``It's not as clear to me that e-mail on the television is a natural application for consumers, because the television is an entertainment device, not a messaging device,'' said Oscodar.

At the same time, Oscodar admits that a telephone with a small liquid-crystal display screen isn't the best device for hunting up Web pages. He predicts that Internet access will eventually become common in both telephones and televisions, with TVs used for browsing the Web while phones take care of e-mail.

Textbook Publishers bundling on the net

Educational publishers are fast learning that profitable sales in the Internet era will depend on making a strong commitment to a Web presence. Waite Group Press, a division of Macmillan Computer Publishing, hosts a home page where mentors provide readers with personal instruction and feedback, effectively "bundling a teacher into a book-and- disk package." Simon and Schuster's subsidiary, Computer Curriculum Corporation, provides Teacher Link, which connects teachers from around the world. Houghton Mifflin has a reading series that includes links to pertinent Web sites.

Educational publishers are now enticing educators to adopt their textbooks by providing Web sites that have supplementary exercises, online discussion groups, and sites that link current events to the curriculum. For instance, Simon and Schuster's College NewsLink is an educational news service that connects course-related news reports to relevant textbooks of social sciences, engineering, business, education, arts, and humanities.

But no popcorn

Last week, the American Film Institute inaugurated the era of movies on the Internet when it began showing ``The Rink,'' a 20-minute 1916 Charlie Chaplin film, on its Web site By teaming up with Palo Alto's VDOnet Corp., the institute is able to ``stream'' the video directly to your computer. There's no time lost to downloading, and you don't have to worry about modem speed, VDOnet says. Eventually, experts predict, consumers will be able to view any film, old or new, any time they want in big-screen glory with full digital sound with a simple click of the mouse. Right now, however, we're still in the stone age of this new technology, and it shows.

The picture is tiny, grainy and a bit jerky. But you can see it and hear the accompanying music. (There is no dialogue because it was a silent film.) And it's in real time.

Pegasus, Preview in Online Hotel Deal

Preview Travel signed a deal with Pegasus' TravelWeb that will make hotel reservations available on the former site by March. Preview Travel also operates the travel area on America Online, under the keyword reservations. Pegasus runs the Hotel Industry Switch Company and the Hotel Clearing Corp., which have an interactive database of available hotel rooms long used by travel agents. Those databases will now be available to Preview users once that company completes writing a front end to the database.

Preview Travel president Ken Orton says his users have been buying more than $1 million a week in tickets on America Online and the company's Web sites, and his front end will let them search the database based on destination, price range, chain name, or desired amenities, view photos, see detailed property information, check hotel room availability, and make secure credit card backed reservations.

Comment

Just exactly what does the Internet offer my business?

Just exactly what does the Internet offer business. When the half yearly figures are figured, the stock sold where do the benefits appear. A lot of business people have peculiar ideas and misguided expectations of what the Internet has to offer. The nuts and bolts are really quite straight forward.

Communications.

E-mail chat sessions and usenet groups save money. Internet communication is a cost not an earner. You beat up the fax machine because it isn't a profit centre or whinge at the phone system because it didn't add to the bottom line.

The Internet offers a communications system with global reach for fraction of the cost of the alternatives. You can save a lot of money, get in touch more effectively and quicker with the global economy.

Take a fifty page document of product specifications. Send it to London by fax, what have they got, a roll of fading flimsy paper and it cost over $50..

Send it by post, what have they got, a pile of paper 50 pages high. Yes they can read it in bed but six weeks later and at a cost of over $100 dollars .

Send it by attached e-mail, what have they got. A computer file, they can print it, read it in bed, edit it forward it instantly to their branch in Aberdeen add it to their other material, post it on the web make computer slide presentations. It's still digital and malleable. Cost to send? Well maybe ten cents. This year the amount of e-mail sent in the United States exceeded the amount or "real" mail. The benefits speak for themselves.

A point of sale and an electronic brochure.

You run a small hotel in sunny South Australia. The main clientele are retired recluses writing their memoirs. It's a very limited market. How do you get those elusive punters to Pinara to enjoy the peace the solitude the good weather for scribbling.

A site on the World Wide Web make David equal to Goliath. Those Rangoon recluses retiring Finnish Admirals, the seekers after peace and quiet all now can survey your offer.

You could print at the cost of a few thousands a glossy brochure and the day after its gone its out of date. And how do you distribute in Helsinki? A web page will cost $50 per month, reach Vladivostok and be the gateway to your niche market.

And importantly visitor to the site can be an electronic Oliver Twist and ask for more. A paper brochure invites them to phone or write, something they may consider, . for about 35 seconds before life's rumpus room gets their attention again.

You have a flash of inspiration, run that summer wine school, get the university to hire the some lecture rooms, hire some wine boffins to lecture, book a select hotel , sort out some day tours, tasting and restaurant outings and you can offer study tours complete with diplomas in a hands on study of the worlds best wine and the globes best food.

Where else can you market to the retired academics and wines buff en masse with the emphasis on the masse.

Research

You manage a small pension fund., a few mill, nothing stressful, but you had better invest well before the members haunted by low inflation and the investors get on your case. Is there action in Chilean futures, profit in New Zealand Forest trusts, tax advantages in American can unit trusts?

How can you find that all out. You could call in the consultants and they will do what you can do but for a lot more money. Go to the local library, chat up your broker ring Smith Barney. The Internet will plug you into the world library. The virtual one with information on everything and experts oozing e mail magazines on every topic known.

You run a small hospital, its a complicated beast with services flying in one door, contractors under foot, patients and doctors in a constant brawl of hopefully profitable and health improving activity.

Where do you get the new ideas for patient services, the facts to bail up your contractors to step them up to better service at a better value price, from your new colleagues in Texas and Brussels. What will get the patients chatting day and night to their old war pals, pestering relatives occupying themselves on genealogical research? The Internet.

If business is networks of people applying common sense solutions to unique problems every day then getting a bit of synergistic poll of brains on the case can only be helpful.

Well the email and the web should allow you to keep touch with your past sellers sending them an email to remind them that wagon needs service, offering to be their best seller when the time comes. The keeping on touch will be so much easier. You can display unique properties with live video and in specific postal code addresses to punters who have not told their mothers they are thinking of moving.

This may not have been triumphed by liveried town criers on the Greenhills road but word is seeping down through the business culture that a new technological revolution is under way. Like most revolutions sooner or later it will affect business. This time more than just a bit.