With so many issues being thrown around, it's hard to know where to start when it comes to the Net. What service provider gives the best value for money? How important is Java and ActiveX? Should I have an intranet? These are some of the questions that visitors to the Internet World Show will be asking.
The show itself takes place at Olympia, London, from 20-22 May and is targeted at senior executives, Web designers and IT managers. With over 10,000 visitors expected, it promises to be the biggest event of its kind in the UK. The exhibition is the main event with over 100 companies represented, including ubiquitous Web designer Webmedia, Internet Service Provider Netcom, and Symantec, developer of Java-made-easy software package Symantec Cafe.
There's also a three-day conference running alongside the exhibition, featuring leading industry figures such as IBM VP Gary Cohen, Netscape CEO Jim Clark, Sun Microsystems MD Robert Youngjohns and Oracle MD Philip Crawford. Other speakers include Andreas Whittam Smith, founder of The Independent, Kim Polese from Marimba, Rupert Miles from BBC Online and Anthony Perkins from US Web site Red Herring.
The conference is a good chance for visitors to throw some questions at the panelists. It's split into three streams - media, commerce and technology - with panel discussions on Java, branding, intranets, content publishing, Internet infrastructure, electronic commerce and broadcasting on the Net.
Conference sessions targeted at specific business areas such as marketing, accountancy, managment consultancy, finance, telephony, telecommunications and law are also on the agenda.
ISPs will be well represented at the show. Among them is Netcom (www.netcom.net), one of the largest ISPs in the US which came to the UK at the beginning of 1996. Netcom recently stopped selling access to consumers and is now concentrating on the business market. It will happily sell Internet connectivity to your company, with services ranging from dialup accounts to Web page design.
Another ISP, Xara Networks (www.xara.net), also concentrates on business-only accounts and can offer permanent leased-line connections to the Internet at speeds of 64Kbps to 10Mbps and fast, high-volume Web server hosting on its own backbones. Xara Net-works doesn't offer end-user dialup or ISDN Internet access so you won't be able to use it to hook up your teleworkers. But it provides the backbone connectivity for a number of companies that do offer these services.
Electronic commerce is edging closer to reality and it's interesting to note the increase in Web-based retail and commerce outfits at the show this year. Visitors interested in selling things via their Web site can check out OpenMarket (www.openmarket.com), which creates shopping facilities on Web sites using electronic wallets and back office integration. OpenMarket is one of the biggest players in the electronic commerce business. Its customers include Disney, which will soon be using Open-Market software to sell movie merchandise on its site. But don't be put off if you're not as big as Disney, there are also solutions for small and medium-sized companies.
Internet UK (the.inter. net.uk) can build a secure retail system for your products whether they're business-to-business or impulse purchase items like flowers, books and CDs. It's reasonably priced considering the relative lack of competition in this area.
According to Sales Director Toby Wolf, Internet UK can build a hacker-proof cybershop for around #40,000. Wolf says none of Internet UK's sites have ever been hacked and points at the success of CD Direct, a Web site run by Easy PC Magazine, which claims to sell a CD every 20 minutes. He adds that Internet UK's programmers regularly hack into other systems to prove how insecure most commerce sites really are. Recently, they downloaded 20,000 credit card numbers from the servers of Cyberian Outpost, a popular site selling computer equipment.
Now that Web sites are becoming more than just pretty pages and are integrating retail functions and databases, Web developers are having to become multiskilled or having to ally with systems integrators. Find out what Domino Systems (www.domino.com), one of the slickest operations in the UK, can do for you and check out some of its creations for Jaguar, Teletext and 3Com. Webmedia (www.webmedia.co.uk) has also been around for a long time and has a wealth of experience, while Soft Options (www.softoft.co.uk) is recommended to BT Internet customers and has built sites for Shell International, the Met.Office and Apple Computer Europe. Intelligent Environments (www.ieinc.com) doesn't design Web pages, but it does Web-enable legacy systems. You can visit its stand if you've finally decided to make your mainframe or database accessible through a Web browser.
If more companies do decide to migrate towards open systems, as looks increasingly likely, systems integrators and information management companies will have a field-day. Look out for Orbis Technology (www.orbis-tech.co.uk), which claims to specialise in Webifying databases and creating online forms. Top Call, whose reputation is better than its Web site, also has a stand at the show and has a wealth of experience in fax and messaging servers. If you've got plenty of documents that need turning into HTML, check out Dataware (www.dataware.com) which publishes National Geographic and Yellow Pages on CD-ROM and can do the same to the Web.
One making-money area on the Web is search engines - these days no big Web site is complete without one. UK-based Muscat (www.muscat.co.uk) isn't a brand name like Yahoo or Infoseek, but it has provided search engines for the government's CCTA site, the Electronic Telegraph and Virgin Net. Verity (www.verity.com), which launched in the UK this month, also makes search engines and is considered one of the top three engines, with clients like Simon and Schuster, The Financial Times and BP. Both Verity and Alta Vista (www.altavista.digital.com) will be announcing personal search engines which load into your browser and let you search the Web, your email and other info on your computer or intranet.
Free tickets can be obtained from the Internet World UK Spring 97 hotline on 01923 252526 or fax 01923 247054, otherwise, admission will cost #10. For more details check the Web site at (www.iw.uk.com).
Making Sense of Intranets
What is an intranet? It's many things to many people, depending on who you talk to. Essentially, it means using a Web browser to access information on a LAN and HTML editing tools to publish documents on it. According to Sam Sethi, European Product Manager at Netscape, there are signs that LANs are beginning to evolve into intranets, though the transition in the UK has been slow. "The hardest part is getting people to change the way they work," says Sethi, who believes the browser is an easier interface to understand than traditional groupware. But then he would - Netscape is about to release Communicator, a combination browser, email client, HTML editor and videoconferencing tool tailored to the intranet environment. He also claims companies will not have difficulty justifying the cost of an intranet. "Until now, you had to buy Windows, which includes Office and other expensive software. You also had to employ developers to write bespoke code. With an intranet there isn't the constant administrative overhead."
Nick Gilbert is Staff Writer for Internet World and can be contacted at ([email protected]).
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