Will we ever be free of the Internet? For the third month running, it takes first place in the hot topics list. That Internet commerce has jumped up two steps to number one is a promising sign - the media is concentrating on how it can actually make money for people. However, other, less commercial Internet issues are still bubbling under.
Web TV slipped out of the top six and is joined by Internet bandwidth, which may make an appearance next month. The good news is that other mainstream computing issues are showing strongly in the chart. December's hot debutante is microchips, with late entries from storage and the year 2000 problem.
The Network Computer has nud-ged up to number three, mainly bec-ause actual products have made it to market, from companies such as Sun, IBM and Acorn. The NC's standing was bolstered by extensive discussions at both the Microsoft and Oracle conferences in early November.
And we haven't seen the last of the NC. A slew of new products will go from vapourware to the shelves over the next few months. As companies begin to implement this particular form of distributed computing, stories about how they're performing are bound to appear.
Finally, Digital Video Disks (DVDs) have dropped out. Last month's impressive performance can be attributed to the interest from Hollywood. Comdex, the biggest computer show on earth, is likely to revive interest in the technology as both DVD players and software begin to filter through to market. Watch this space.
Enough surfing: business is wide awake to the possibilities of the Internet and wants to know how it can make money from it.
The consensus is that there isn't actually any extra money to be made there. After all, both consumers and business users only have so much money to spend. In fact, conventional retailers with their high overheads may be driven out of business by Internet commerce.
A common model is that Intelligent Agents will search commercial Web sites to find the lowest prices for any given product. That will also harm any Internet sellers who can't strip margins to the absolute bone.
But that's some way in the future. There are much more fundamental problems to overcome first. The surge in interest from banks on both sides of the Atlantic, and the Far East, is probably the most encouraging sign for two reasons.
The first is that Internet commerce will require a leap of faith on behalf of most consumers. If they can get used to dealing with bank account details and accessing services through a Web site, they are far more likely to take the extra step of buying goods or services on the Internet.
The second reason is that banks can actually provide much of the infrastructure for Internet commerce. And if they can become clearing houses for virtual money - or e-cash - there is greater scope for non-credit card transactions.
Users still regard the transmission of their card numbers over the Net as a stumbling block to online shopping.
And, of course, Internet security lurks in the background of every discussion about money changing hands in cyberspace.
Hot Topics in print
1. Internet Banking and Commerce
3. Network Computers
5. Year 2000
6. Object Technology
The MEDIAtrak domain, which contains information provided by Spikes Cavell, is the source of some of the stories in Information Update. It contains information extracted from the huge volume of IT information generated by trade newspapers, magazines and journals.
The synthesis and refinement is achieved by systematically reading vast numbers of trade publications each month and classifying every article of significance in accordance with a pre-determined matrix of subjects and issues. Once classified, the articles are read and turned into a subject/issue brief, or a summary of the article's content as it relates to the subject and issue. Collections of these briefs are refined to create narratives.
Collections of narratives are further refined to create subject and issue-based overviews, which are compared over time to create trend summaries.
Each document in the pyramid is linked to related documents and contains both the classification and bibliographic references from which the findings were originally synthesised.
Mondex, the electronic payments card specialist, is looking for ways to use the system over the Internet. At the launch of the card by HSBC in Hong Kong, security is still mentioned as the key factor in slowing down Net banking.
Journal of Commerce 21 October
Auto Connect, an Internet service linking US car dealerships with banks to speed up credit checks, won't allow customers to make online purchases.
Although the Web seems an ideal way to link directly to manufacturers and bypass the dealerships altogether, car-maker loyalty to their biggest source of revenue means customers will still have to deal with the intermediaries.
Information Week 21 October
Electronic commerce is not a pot of gold waiting to be tapped, claims Art Hutchinson. It is time-saving, convenient and will certainly shake up existing retailers. But Internet commerce needs to be applied to existing business processes for companies to make the most of it.
Communications Week 21 October
Canadian banks are overcoming regulatory bars to online banking using subsidiary companies; but the authorities are willing to allow finance houses into the software arena as long as the companies they buy are focusing on electronic payment systems or banking. The real headache is programmers and software houses getting used to the level of regulation in the financial sector.
American Banker 21 October
Check Free Corporation announces revenues of $33m for the three months to the end of September. The company provides home banking and bill payment services for banks. It has 165 financial institutions and 780,000 subscribers on its books. But it still lost nearly $12m in this quarter.
PR Newswire 23 October
Electronic cash experts, Cyber Cash, made more money from consultancy ($21,000) than from credit-card transactions ($18,000) in the third quarter of this year. But new services, such as Cyber Coin, for making Net purchases which are less than $10, are expected to help the company take off. Cyber Cash has also signed a deal that will allow Mondex smart cards to be used for payments over the Net.
PR Newswire 24 October
France's traditional focus on collective bank administration of credit and charge cards puts the country in a strong position to exploit Internet commerce. Minitel, the well-established online information service is threatened by the Net, as long as the French can be persuaded to ditch Minitel for a PC and modem. So far, only 400,000 users there have a modem.
But modem companies are piloting smart-card readers to help ease payment over the Internet.
Credit Card Management October
Logica will provide the payment gateway for BT's Web World commerce service. The service will allow BT's customers to sell goods over the Internet, using Open Markets OM-Transact software, in a secure environment.
M2 Presswire 25 October
Research from Find-SVP and Jupiter Communications suggests that online banking, currently practised by some 2.1 million homes in the US, could double or even triple within a year.
American Banker 25 October
Advance Bank Australia is to issue e-cash (by Digicash), while rival National Australia Bank already has an agreement with Cyber Cash. Advance remains the only antipodean bank that provides full Internet banking services.
Australian Financial Review 25 October
Many banks are fearful of Internet banking. They know that its success depends not only on technology but on cultural and social change. Because of technology, banks and retailers understand their customers more, and are adapting to their needs more quickly.
The Economist 26 October
UK banks are well placed to exploit the Internet because they are already major investors in IT. Barclays' venture using Microsoft Money is to be followed by a TSB service with Compuserve. But financial services companies need to start actually using the Internet for transactions, rather than as a glorified advertising medium.
The Independent 30 October
Internet commerce threatens to overwhelm traditional trade laws because of its global nature. Sales taxes, data protection laws, consumer rights and privacy are all important issues that will be affected by Net trading.
But any heavy-handed restrictions by national regulators would threaten an emerging industry in e-cash.
Reuters 31 October
Merchant Server 1.0, Microsoft's Internet commerce package to help companies sell on the Web, wins the backing of several US banks. While all involved admit the market is small at the moment, explosive growth is predicted for the near future.
American Banker 31 October
Web experts with weird Net aliases and a fondness for science fiction are the real arbiters of Internet commerce. Security protocols, Web-site design and advances in transaction technology are in the hands of these Netizens. Netscape has taken a lead in offering incentives to hackers for information on system loopholes.
OEM Magazine 1 November
A report by Killen & Associates claims that by the year 2000 there will be 9 billion e-cash transactions worldwide, rising to 30 billion by 2005.
The company classes credit and debit cards and cash machine withdrawals as e-cash.
Network Computing 1 November
Silicon Valley-based Broadvision offers companies the chance to develop fully interactive commercial Web sites that learn users' preferences.
Its One-to-One service is supposed to be ideal for personalised Web banking, and will build customer profiles to use in marketing and to develop proactive new services.
Wall Street & Technology 1 November
Motorola's Fast Crypto chips can be built into smart cards, making them ideal for electronic commerce because they are easy to use and secure.
They have enough memory to become multi-functional, acting as a debit card, credit card, loyalty card and electronic purse on the Mondex model.
The Edge: Workgroup computing report 4 November
The take-up of electronic commerce is quite slow, despite the benefits for financial services companies of direct sales and lower distribution costs. Security remains a prime concern, but for banks in particular, there remains the reassurance problem: people trust you more when they can see your physical presence.
Communications Week 4 November
IBM is catching up with the early leaders in the Internet race, spending $1bn on Net activities. With Commerce Point, World Avenue and Integrion, IBM now has a good grounding in Net commerce and banking. A whole raft of other products are expected to give Big Blue a thorough foundation for an end-to-end Web business system.
Electronic Engineering Times 4 November
The SET (Secure Electronic Transactions) protocol receives a boost with the alliance between Tandem subsidiary Atalla and RSA security. They plan to develop a SET payments toolkit with a complementary Application Programming Interface to calm fears over the complexity of setting up commercial Web sites, and the security of Internet transactions.
Business Wire 4 November
The US banking sector has traditionally been seen as backward when it comes to IT. But the launch of Integrion by IBM and 15 North American banks puts the industry at the heart of Internet commerce. Top personal finance software company Intuit hopes to work with the consortium. However, it is developing a different set of open standards for financial transactions.
PC Magazine (US) 5 November
Asia looks set to host a boom in customers willing to buy over the Internet, with 36 million potential users. Known as GeneraAsian X, this group embraces new technology, has the spending power to shop around and is keen to buy branded goods.
Newsbytes 7 November
The Australian Government is tackling the problem of missing sales taxes should electronic commerce make buying from overseas too easy. There is also the question of employees of multinational companies being paid in foreign currencies to off-shore bank accounts accessible over the Net.
Australia has no consumption taxes, and trying to enforce one to solve the problem could be politically difficult.
Australian Financial Review 13 November
Intuit has consistently beaten rival Microsoft to the punch with the functionality of its Quicken finance package. This is also true of getting into online banking, although Microsoft has come back strongly with Barclays selecting Money as its online front end. It also has the cash and manpower to keep hard on the heels of its smaller rival because, according to research, the market for online commerce will expand to $6.6bn a year by 2000.
The Guardian 14 November
IBM continues to impress in e-commerce: Insure-commerce is a service to the insurance industry, bringing closer the concept of a virtual insurance company. I-C will help agents, brokers and service providers improve communications and find the best deals.
Newsbytes 14 November
Jacques Santer, president of the European Commission, claims electronic commerce will become easier with the arrival of the Euro, the single european currency. Internet trading also offers a lifeline to rural communities eroded by urban shopping habits and the growth of superstores.
European Union Rapid 14 November.
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