From Dana.Blankenhorn@worldnet.att.net Fri Jul 17 03:19:17 1998 Date: Thu, 16 Jul 1998 19:43:02 -0700 From: Dana Blankenhorn To: jtbass@a-clue.com, jtbass@tbass.com Subject: This week's Clue OK, it's late. Sue me. Seriously, I got my Softbank editor to pick up my expenses as well as the story fees, so it's been a great week, even though he cut the work load! And give Russell my best...if you do move to Portland, we're following! A-Clue.Com, Volume 2, Number 29
A-Clue.Com
(formerly "A Clue...to Internet Commerce")
by Dana Blankenhorn
Volume II, No. XXIX
For the Week of July 20, 1998
 

This Week's Clue: Hog Butcher to the World 

SSP (Shameless Self-Promotion)  

Life in the 21st Century 

What's Wrong At Yahoo? 

It Walks Like A Duck, And Quacks Like A Duck, but... 

Clued-in, Clueless

This Week's Clue: Hog Butcher to the World  

Last week's Internet World show  demonstrated just how deeply Web technology has gotten into the bones and sinews of American business. The show no longer looks like an entertainment convention - now it's more like the inside of a sausage factory. (In this case a small factory - more on that next week.) How fitting we were in Chicago. 

The key announcements involved implementation of previously announced technology. (It was great, but what do I do with it?) Sprint chairman William Esrey  delivered a keynote address on Sprint's "FastBreak" technology, which meters voice and data like electricity - sales and press meetings filled the next morning. (What sense does it make if they don't peer with anyone?) IBM held the major press conference, touting new business relationships with clued-in outfits like Personalogic  and NetPerceptions  aimed at enhancing its Net.Commerce line. It's not new, it's not sexy, but it's becoming key to business planning, and the purpose of a show like this is not to feed the press, but to do "bidness". 

Just as the site of your own growth moved inside your body when you grew up, so it is with today's Internet. Things like Anyware Technology's  EverLink, a cross-platform system linking remote, mobile and corporate users, and Chrystal Publishing's  technical publishing groupware - the kind of stuff that first appeared two years ago - now look interesting. E-mail automation solutions like Imagina's NotifyMail , the WorldSecure  e-mail firewall and policy management package, and Electric Mail Company's outsourcing solution, all drew interest. 

Maybe ViaWeb  sold-out just in time. I counted seven e-commerce software offerings out of 28 press announcements. On the low-end, Rich Media Technologies  offered JustAddCommerce, a Microsoft FrontPage shopping cart plug-in, and WorldWide Merchant  showed a set of tools that, like ViaWeb, let you build a real store (including online transaction processing), for under $1,000 and a few weeks' work. EyeHand Interactive  showed a shopping cart that doesn't need server-side support, instead relying on a Windows NT-compatible database, and OpenShop  offered support for multiple platforms and databases, along with "3D virtual reality elements and free page design." (Everyone needs a gimmick.) 

On the high-end of e-commerce, e2 Software  showed a system that allows human support for automated scheduling and sales messages designed to overcome objections, while Pandesic  and Corporate Interactive  showed end-to-end solutions bundling software, hardware and services for the Fortunate 500. 

This is where PC computing stood in the late 80s, when networking technology replaced PC applications as the Comdex sizzle. It's also when the real benefits of the PC revolution started appearing on the horizon, in the form of higher productivity. That's my point. A lot of reporters left this show claiming they were bored, that nothing was happening, that the fun was gone. Well, yeah, the fun is gone. It's time to get to work. Don't let the hot summer weather fool you. 



SSP (Shameless Self-Promotion) 

Yes, I enjoyed Chicago . But the real money is in writing, and I'm doing plenty of that. Boardwatch Magazine  will begin running my e-commerce column in September. I'm looking for details on the technology behind some of the most successful online stores. We now have about 700 readers on the A-Clue.Com list, and there may be as many as a thousand more visiting our Web sites each week (including Sean Cafferky's PPN and Tom King's CompuTalk . That's because we not only deliver news and insight, we deliver it in a fun, entertaining way. It's the thought that counts, and as always I very much appreciate yours. 

You can now subscribe (or cancel your subscription) to A-Clue.Com automatically by emailing us at a-clue@list.mmgco.com or (if you prefer the .txt version) aclue_textonly@list.mmgco.com. Just put the magic word "subscribe" (or join, if you prefer) in the body or header. If you don't get service, of course, feel free to drop me a note at dana.blankenhorn@att.net. And we want your feedback  as well, always. In time you'll also see an ad in this space (or very near it) to defray our higher costs. (You won't mind, will you?) 

As usual, I'm also talking to lots of new publishers, and you can be one of them. Remember that it's Journalism -- checking the news, calling people, listening carefully, writing on deadline -- which keeps the Clues coming, although I also handle consulting and commercial writing (ask about those rates via email). If you're looking for excellent work, as found in Atlanta Computer Currents , at PlugIn Datamation  or in Net Marketing magazine , among other locations, don't wait for the email -- give me a call at 404-373-7634. 

And now back to our show... 


Life in the 21st Century  

Streamline  continues its experiment with boxes into which its delivery people will drop your groceries, film and dry cleaning based on your clicks in parts of Massachusetts. They're halfway toward a system that will change the way you live in the next century. 

What's wrong with Streamline's vision? I see several problems. First, they drop things off while I'm out for their convenience. I don't care about their convenience. They should come when I call, or when I promise to be there. Making a system that works for me work for the delivery guy requires very sophisticated networks, linked to trucks, that match my needs with the ability to pick-up and deliver. (Think a same-day FedEx.) The point is this is all technology, and solutions exist. 

Second, why are these services tied to specific merchants? I should be able to send my minions to any store I choose, for anything I need. That means they should be able to get my prescriptions, get cash from my bank, and do anything else I'd otherwise have to do myself. The whole goal should be to save me the time (and expense) of driving anywhere to get anything I might want from local merchants - unless I decide to go somewhere. (Shopping is still fun for some people.) 

Making this work will mean combining the Web with mobile networks, centralized storage, and trucks with ample cold-and-hot storage compartments. Companies like Shurguard, which now control the temporary rental space market, have much of the capital to get this done - they'll already deliver (and pick up) boxes you fill with stuff. Someone is going to figure this puzzle out, and frankly I can't wait. 

What's Wrong At Yahoo?  

He who lives by the stock market may die by the stock market. Yahoo  is a case in point. 

While analysts crowed about it "beating the street," announcing $8 million in earnings for its latest quarter, the good news came with an unseen price. Yahoo has (so far) been unable to capitalize on its acquisition of Viaweb with local shopping tied to its local Yahoo sites. In fact, it's done very little with those local Yahoos at all. Worse, Yahoo hasn't policed its free e-mail  system, so much of the spam (you and) I get now comes from there. (Microsoft was smart to keep the Hotmail.Com name, doncha think? Remember, every spam from Yahoo.com costs Yahoo a piece of its reputation.) 

The solution to the mail trouble, like the commerce trouble, requires that someone spend money. The commerce system needs local sales forces, the mail system needs proof of identity for new accounts, and a way to share names of spammers with other systems so they're eventually kicked out everywhere. Turning off mail relays wouldn't hurt, either. But when you have to book every dime you can as profit to keep up the stock price, you miss opportunities like this. The solution, as first found by America Online  (well, Mark Twain actually detailed it in 'Tom Sawyer,' when Tom was told to whitewash the fence) is to sign alliances under which other people do this. That, however, leaves you hostage to others' business plans. Or you could tell the street the truth (you want to spend your profits building the business) and hope they'll understand. (Right!) 

It Walks Like A Duck, And Quacks Like A Duck, but...  

When you asked to be put on the A-Clue.Com mailing list, you expected we'd e-mail you. But what about when you bought a book at Amazon.Com, or when you registered Office '97? Does every purchase connected to your e-mail address carry such permission? 

As more mass merchants become clued-in to the value of their registration cards, along with the e-mail addresses and other personal information on those cards, the amount of indirectly solicited e-mail sent by major merchants is growing. (It's not exactly spam, but it sure tastes like it's got pork shoulder, ham, and a lot of salt in it.) Two such e-mails came to me recently, and maybe you got them, too. 

The first said it was from "Microsoft Office News" and included a link to some free stuff for registered users at http://www.microsoft.com/office/info/office/easy/. In theory, this Web address is only usable by registered Office '97 owners, and they're giving what's there away. But if I didn't ask Microsoft for e-mailed product updates (and I didn't) should I be angry about this? Should you? 

The second note claimed to be from Jeff Bezos of Amazon.Com, but the e-mail address was an auto-mailer at ourthanks3@amazon.com. This one took the contents of an order I'd recently placed and included links to purchases of related books on the Amazon site. Again, I didn't explicitly ask for this e-mail - did Jeff spam me? 

I'll let you be the judge here. But when you read of foiled legislative efforts to ban spam  think of these new business models. If Chris Smith's "ban spam" bill passes, this kind of stuff is included. 

Clued-in, Clueless 

Clued-in is Karl Salnoske of IBM , who gave a Summer Internet World press conference this (correct) view of e-commerce. "It's a complete life-cycle, starting when you reach a customer, through negotiating, completing the transaction, including payment and fulfillment, and serving that customer after the sale, building a long-term relationship." 

Clueless is someone at Sabre's  press office that let go the story  that they consider customers' travel plans an asset they can re-sell to other vendors. As one editor told me when I read her the initial story, "Oh, my God." The fact no one anticipated at Sabre this reaction is incredibly clueless. (The fact that they're now denying it...) 

A-Clue.Com (formerly A Clue...to Internet Commerce) is a free weekly email publication. Subscribers can receive either a .txt file or .htm file. The .htm version features links that become active from inside a browser. To take your name off the list, simply write REMOVE as the subject, or content, of a message replying to any issue. To request your free copy, write us at mailto:Dana.Blankenhorn@ att.net. To subscribe you can also write to a-clue@list.mmgco.com with the word "subscribe" in the subject. (Address your notes on the .txt version to a-clue_textonly@list.mmgco.com. You can unsubscribe with a note to the same addresses and the word "unsubscribe" in the subject.. We're on the Web at http://www.a-clue.com and http://www.ppn.org/clue. -- Dana Blankenhorn @Have Modem, Will Travel Home of A-Clue.Com http://www.a-clue.com http://www.ppn.org/clue 404-373-7634 [Part 2, Text/HTML 261 lines] [Unable to print this part]