The City seems to have fallen in love with business-to-business ecommerce. Every stock that has had a whiff of this market has gone skyward.
What's the investor looking for value to do? First, there are reams of statistics available showing that companies are no longer concerned with just selling online. The objectives are to provide product information, to increase corporate awareness and to improve brand and corporate image.
GartnerGroup analysts expect that the value of the business-to-business ecommerce market will rocket from $145bn (£92.3bn) last year to $7.29tn in 2004. Even though the market will hold 70 per cent of internet transactions, with an expected audience of 20 million users in the UK by year-end 2000, business-to-consumer opportunity needs to be reassessed.
With the exception of those who want to recreate Microsoft Office at home, the IT industry has little to offer the consumer. However, with consumer spending representing 65 per cent of UK gross national product, and with 70 per cent of IT spend directed at the business market, the industry has been repositioning itself to capture the huge, untapped consumer market.
There will be 16.6 million US homes with high-speed internet access by 2004, according to the Yankee Group, a 15.2 million increase from today's 1.4 million.
Freeserve has announced a high-speed access trial through BT's Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line platform in Manchester and London. Participants have a permanent connection to the internet of up to 512Kbps, enabling them to send and receive data 10 to 20 times faster than via a traditional dial-up modem connection. The fixed monthly charge means participants will have constant connection with no dial-up delays nor additional call charges. This should spur further internet use in the UK.
Fancy a coffee, Sunbeam?
By 2005 the focus of IT development will be the consumer rather than today's corporate user. While a year ago the only new consumer product was the ICL fridge developed with Electrolux, this year in the US we have Replay and TiVo using the internet to 'personalise' TV viewing, and Sunbeam announced an alarm clock which tells your coffee maker to start brewing.
The latest innovation is an electronic medical cabinet which dispenses medical advice. Sun Microsystems has announced an agreement with Whirlpool, while General Electric teamed up with Microsoft. Sun is keen to push Jini, the interconnect architecture, into the home, and Microsoft has Universal Plug and Play to integrate Windows software into every home device.
Investors should re-visit computing in the e-consumer world. Looking for the next best thing can only pay dividends.
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