US rhetoric on the New Economy can be a "dangerous thing", warns Neil Bradford, Forrester UK's managing director. "In the UK, some of the most interesting things that are happening have come out of Old Economy companies like Barclays, the Prudential or Dixons."
"The thing is, we're always two years behind the US, which means we have two years to watch and get ready. So, what's happened in the UK is that internet business developments have been corporate initiatives, not start-up initiatives, as against the US where the new has come from a procession of newness," he said.
"UK ebusiness will take off next year. The investment is there and senior management is realising that the time is now. We will soon reach an inflexion point where ebusiness will become business," he predicted.
Neil Bradford and his business partner Will Reeve set up Fletcher Research in early 1998, but it was acquired by Forrester in November 1999, and officially became the UK arm of the Boston-based technology research firm on 10 May this year.
Bradford looks back with fondness to Fletcher's early days before the Forrester buy-out. At that time, his company had only one employee and a coffee machine. Its first published report, Net Profits, was not a prognostication on the money to be made from the internet economy, but rather an analysis of licensing media rights in the English football industry.
"I loved doing the football reports," recalled Bradford, wistfully. "My initial idea was that I would do the sports stuff and Will would do the internet stuff. But, really, the football world is defensive, while people were delighted to find a company doing research about the internet market in the UK, separating the hype from the facts."
Continuing the soccer analogy, he added that being absorbed into a bigger group means "that we can now field a decent football team".
But was it his game plan all along to be acquired by Forrester? An early business plan indicates that it was.
The Fletcher story, as Bradford tells it, goes like this. In early 1998, he and Reeve worked out the business model for a research firm specialising in the UK internet market, and 1999 was about "leveraging that".
As well as chunky analyst reports, the company ran forums on the online retail and finance sectors, and developed its Internet Monitor product.
A perfect fit?
In August 1999, Fletcher, which by this time employed 25 staff, started talking to Forrester, which had 600 personnel on a global basis. Bradford described the two organisations as "complementary".
Forrester had been producing global reports about technology trends for top executives since George Forrester Colony founded the firm in 1983. Fletcher, on the other hand, had been producing similar, although less technologically heavy, reports that focused on the UK market.
"We found that our clients were using the Forrester material to get a global perspective, and our stuff to get a UK angle on the whole thing," said Bradford.
So, what makes the UK internet market so different? "Every market is different", said Bradford. "Overall, I'd say that competition in the UK is less fierce and aggressive than it is in the US. So many things, due to market forces, take longer to come round here."
"For example, in financial services four or five big banks control the UK market, while in the US, there are hundreds of banks. And in the media, the disproportionate influence of the BBC means that the competitive landscape is fundamentally skewed," he added.
As for the landscape itself, Bradford predicts that business-to-business (B2B) ecommerce will become a reality in the UK over the next year. Recent announcements in the procurement space are, he says, "just the first step in how the network will change how ebusinesses organise".
The fundamental trend in the B2B and business-to-consumer ecommerce space will be the increasing adoption of multiple devices to access the internet - especially interactive TV.
"You buy a TV because you want to be entertained. What you've got now is simple interactivity being bundled with digital TV. This means a whole new market and not just early adopter people who want to get on in life. We'll soon move from complex lean-forward interactivity to lazy lean-back interactivity - the remote in one hand, a beer in the other," he said.
Dark matter holds the Universe together - and gravitational waves could help identify it
Addison Lee is working on autonomous taxis for commuting and pleasure
IBM and Technical University of Munich team demonstrate how Shor's algorithm, which can't be cracked by conventional computers, can be solved quickly with quantum computing
Hubble Space Telescope finds superflares from young red dwarfs could strip away planetary atmosphere
Younger stars are 100 to 1,000 times more energetic than when they're older