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Market Leadership in the Information Age

 openbook.gif (276 bytes)   The Best of Online Shopping

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enterprisecom.jpg (5586 bytes)Jeff Papows
Perseus Books
240 pages, hardcover
November, 1998).


Now that information technology (IT) has permeated every aspect of business, Web stores face a 24-hour world without borders.  Jeff Papows points out that this trend forces every enterprise to reposition itself as a participant in a "vast network of suppliers, distributors, customers, and partners."

With this IT focus, it's little wonder that Papows, President of Lotus, gets raves from the head of Novell and Oracle, but he also gets a plug from Michael Porter, the hip Harvard Business School prof.

Papows stresses Metcalfe's law.  Bob Metcalfe invented the fast network wire known as Ethernet and later set up 3Com, most popularly known as the owner of the park in which the San Francisco Giants and 49ers play ball.  Metcalfe posits that "The cost of a network expands linearly with increases in network size, but the value of a network increases exponentially."  Papows translates that into Web presence: "In practical terms, this means that Web sites, discussion databases, on-line services, and team rooms can attain the level of success and density (the critical mass) required to capture a market, even as the cost to service these networks decreases to virtually zero."

By collecting a critical mass of customers, a portal becomes a kind of Internet brand, he argues.

Also, by masking conflicts between hardware and operating systems, the Internet "has improved interoperability by at least an order of magnitude," although problems will probably arise as businesses try to get data in and out of ancient databases built with COBOL, unless the Java initiative succeeds as a standard.

And in the near future, he predicts, we can have our network connections always on.   No need to disconnect--and, in fact, no wish to, because we will be so dependent on the Web as a source of information, business, and fun.

As a loyal member of the IBM family, Papows recognizes the new importance of e-business, a term that Big Blue has been advertising to death recently. "Taken together, the new network era's emphasis on bandwidth, critical mass, system interoperability, direct customer connctions, electronic commerce, and the development of virtual communities will provide the underpinnings for an IT universe substantially different from its predecessor, which was defined by microporcessors, LANs and individual/group productivity."  Wow, the culture under the blue awning has really changed since the days of the mainframe and the mysterious priests of the machine.


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