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Internet products - the new market niche

Internet products - the new market niche

Even those few resellers that haven't embraced the Internet for their own use will have to agree that it's a new area of sales opportunity. Many new software products have been released over the past few months, with many more coming. In fact, it seems that just about every one of last year's products has been re-released in an "Internet-friendly" version. Products range from Internet access kits to Internet-enabled software to Internet development packages. Hardware isn't out of the equation either, with healthy sales to both ISPs and companies setting up Internet/intranet servers By Durelle FryInternet access cards National Internet service provider Microplex says it is experiencing sales of its Internet-access cards well beyond forecast levels. Steve Engel, director of sales and marketing at Microplex, told ARN that while forecast sales of the Internet-access cards were 5000 per month, sales figures six months after the card's introduction are reaching 10Ð20,000 per month. Engel says that supply problems were experienced in January when sales began to skyrocket, (there is a two-month lead time in the manufacture of the cards); however, the company is now meeting demand.

The Internet-access cards are currently sold through computer and non-computer retailers, and newsagents. There are two market focuses for the card, the Internet community and online games users.

The Internet community includes private home users, from children through to pensioners, and small to medium businesses. The latter group are attracted to the card because it is a fixed cost item and budgeting Internet expenses becomes a simple task.

The online games community is a much smaller section of the market and Engel says that Microplex will be concentrating on this group in the future by increasing the number of games on the server. The CD, which is bundled with the card, contains client software for accessing the games server. There is no cost for playing the games other than a $25 one-off access fee.

At $40 for 40 minutes of access time, calculation of cost and profit margins becomes a simple process compared to the complicated and administratively expensive way of calculating commission based on the number of traditional Internet accounts sold.

Engel points out that both the reseller and Microplex benefit as well as the end user. Resellers are able to calculate their profit on sales in the same way as they do for any other product. The reseller doesn't have to make any commitment to volume with the access card, eliminating the risk of being left with unsold product. For Microplex, there are no dealings with the end user so there is no need for account keeping and billing procedures, and the expense of chasing bad debts is eliminated. For the end user, purchases of the card can be made by cash and there is control over the amount of Internet time used by the family or small business.

Registration for the Internet user is online and the CD-ROM that comes with the access card contains all the software necessary for the user. The CD is constantly upgraded and updated and includes tools and utilities.

Once an end user purchases an access card, they have 31 days in which to use their 40 hours of access time. Timing is calculated in hundredths of a minute and billing is on a minute-by-minute basis. Users can buy multiple cards at one time and can select either "rationed or unrationed mode". Cards can be racked up, ready to go, and in rationed mode a new card will not be introduced until the 31 days has expired on the previous card. In unrationed mode, a new card can be introduced as soon as the last card has expired.

As an added incentive for the end user, and to encourage on-going use of the card, when 10 cards are collected and returned the user receives a free card. The returned cards are recycled by the card manufacturer.

By the time this issue goes to print, Microplex will also have 15-hour cards at $24.95 each. These cards will also be sold through petrol stations, video stores and supermarkets. The 15-hour card has been trialled with a newsagent in Blaxland in the Blue Mountains of NSW and 35 cards were sold on a single Saturday.

Other developments planned include small business products using the access card and a solution to enable users who want constant usage to pay by credit card.

For the reseller, access cards can be obtained from the distributor, Marketing Results. Engel claims that they are a good business opportunity because they generate ongoing traffic through the sale of add-ons and games, and because reusage of the cards is very high. He told ARN that some resellers are giving access cards away with new computers as a sales incentive.

Marketing Results

Tel (02) 9899 5888 Fax (02) 9899 5728

Work the Web intranet starter pack

This package from Lotus includes software needed to establish an intranet for 10 people, plus discounted Web-site hosting and publishing. The package includes a discounted offer from Connect.com to host and publish Web sites on the Internet.

Michael Ossipoff, marketing director at Lotus Development, Australia and New Zealand, says that "even though this is called an intranet package, it lets users not only establish an intranet, but create Web sites and implement extranets".

The starter pack includes these products:

Lotus Domino 4.5 server, server software for the Internet, groupware and messaging Lotus Domino.Action, a suite of templates and applications for creating a Web site or intranet Lotus Notes Designer Client, user software for information access - from the Internet, groupware applications and e-mail Lotus Notes Desktop Clients x 4, an integrated full-service client for accessing i-net sites Netscape Navigator 3.0 x 5, Web browser Weblicator licences x 5, a tool for working the Web on and offline, adding local cataloguing of Web information to any browser Lotus Components for five users. Small, task-focused applets for delivering spreadsheet, database and other traditional business functions over i-nets Free resolution of two customer support issues A "Getting Started with Domino.Action" training offer Option to purchase Lotus field support, including on-site installation, deployment and configuration of a customer's intranet solution Discount on Internet services offered by Connect.com. These include a Web-hosting service, domain-name connection, and Internet-airtime access. The discount reduces the cost for intranet-in-a-box users to offer access to their intranet services via the WebThe Work the Web intranet starter pack is available now and has a RRP of $2495, a discount of more than 40 per cent on the normal RRP for these products. The offer expires on June 30.

Lotus Tel 1800 252 408

Microsoft's Internet products

FrontPage 97 with Bonus Pack

New features of FrontPage 97 include:

Comprehensive and intelligent support for the most powerful Web tools, including Java applets, ActiveX Controls, Netscape plug-ins, the Visual Basic programming system, Scripting Edition and JavaScript.

Improved HTML support includes the ability to insert marquee text, watermarks and background images and sounds in FrontPage-based Web sites An Import Wizard allows easy importing of existing Web sites.

Users are able to view their work before publishing to the Web with any browser they have on an array of screen sizes by using the preview in Browser feature There is a Database Connectivity Wizard which walks users through the process of connecting to and performing dynamic queries from a database HTML source code can be edited directly within the product, delivering flexibility to users with a knowledge of HTML.

The Bonus Pack included with FrontPage 97 includes Microsoft Image Composer, a tool for creating, arranging and customising on-screen graphics. With this application, users can customise images (there are more than 500 art effects included with the product) and run effects through PhotoShop plug-in products such as Kai's Power Tools. There are more than 600 royalty-free, Web-ready images included with Image Composer. They come from leading stock photography companies such as PhotoDisk.

The bonus pack also includes Microsoft Personal Web Server, a Windows 95-based version of Microsoft Internet Information Server; and Microsoft Internet Explorer 3.0.

In addition, FrontPage 97 with Bonus Pack complements Microsoft Office by taking advantage of new Office features, sharing common code and offering a consistent user interface.

Microsoft FrontPage 97 with Bonus Pack is available for the same introductory RRP as the previous version, $169 for new users. An upgrade for previous users is available for an RRP of $89.

The product runs on the Windows 95 and Windows NT operating systems.

Microsoft Internet Explorer 3.02 (for Win 95 and Windows NT 4.0)Internet Explorer 3.02 is a completely new version of the browser and includes the following new features:

Security Enhancements - Internet Explorer 3.02 fixes the following security risks: "Cybersnot" Security Concerns; MIT Variation of Cybersnot Information; University of Maryland Security Concerns; CNET Security Concerns; Hyperlink Security Concerns; and Java Cache Security Concerns.

Another new feature is called Auto-Proxy, which allows the browser to automatically select a proxy server according to the configuration specified by the user. A proxy server acts as a security barrier between the user's internal network and the Internet, so it is usually only used in a corporate intranet situation when connected to a LAN.

Internet Explorer 3.02 also includes an automatic configuration feature, allowing administrators to make changes to INS files to dynamically configure features within the browser.

An updated version of Internet Mail and News makes sure people are warned before launching a program attached to an e-mail message.

Microsoft Internet Information Server 3.0Microsoft IIS 3.0 is tightly integrated with the Microsoft Windows NT Server operating system. It includes a built-in search engine, streaming multimedia capabilities, and logfile analysis tools. The product introduces Active Server Pages, facilitating the posting of dynamic content and the development of Web-based applications.

New features include Active Server Pages, a framework that allows organisations to combine HTML, scripts and components to create powerful solutions; and ActiveX Data Object (ADO), which allows Web developers to link a database to an "active" Web page to access and manipulate data. Other features include Microsoft NetShow, Microsoft Index Server 1.1, Java Virtual Machine, Microsoft FrontPage 97 Server Extensions, Seagate Software's Crystal Reports 4.5 for IIS, SSL 3.0 Support, Multiple Default Documents and Virtual Directory Mapping via Windows Explorer.

Microsoft FrontPage 97 is now included free of charge with Windows NT Service Pack 2.

Microsoft ActiveX

Microsoft ActiveX is a set of technologies that enables interactive content for the World Wide Web. Using ActiveX, Web sites are enhanced with multimedia effects, interactive objects and sophisticated applications. ActiveX includes both client and server technologies:l ActiveX Controls are the interactive objects in a Web page which provide interactive and user-controllable functions, enlivening the Web sitel ActiveX documents enable users to view non-HTML documents through a Web browserl Active Scripting controls the integrated behaviour of several ActiveX controls and/or Java applets from the browser or serverl Java Virtual Machine is the code that enables any ActiveX-supported browser such as Internet Explorer 3.0 to run Java applets and to integrate Java applets with ActiveX controlsl ActiveX Server Framework provides a number of Web server-based functions such as security, database access and othersSmall, medium and large software companies currently create ActiveX controls, including companies such as Borland, Oracle and Sybase/ Powersoft. As a result, there are more than 1000 existing ActiveX controls available for use today by Web producers.

Microsoft

Tel (02) 9870 2100 Fax (02) 9805 0809

Internet videoconferencing

Centura Software ForeSite 2.0 Integration ServerThe ForeSite 2.0 product suite has been described by the company as "the first Integration server to migrate, integrate and scale business applications for the Web". It joins other products which link browsers to databases.

The suite includes four components: the ForeSite Integrator, dynamic content Web assembly environment; ForeSite PageServer, a high-performance dynamic deployment server; ForeSite Dispatcher, a distributed resource manager; and ForeSite SIM, a System Integration Module that connects to legacy applications.

There are three steps involved in building Web applications with ForeSite. First, migrate legacy client/server and mainframe applications. Second, integrate legacy applications with new Web business logic and content. Third, scale the new application for optimal performance and reliability.

ARN spoke to Roy Brady, managing director of Centura Software Asia-Pacific, about opportunities for resellers to supply this product. Brady explained that Centura uses a leveraged channel module to distribute the product. There is no distinction made between resellers and distributors, of which there are seven in Australia and 18 in the Asia-Pacific region. It is a value added distribution model and all suppliers are specialised in their knowledge of the product.

The challenge for the reseller is to relate the business need to the technology. The reseller must be able to identify the need and tie up the business with the software. ForeSite 2.0 is focused on helping businesses with Web-enabled applications, and the finished system looks like a traditional computer system.

Brady says that any resellers interested in supplying ForeSite 2.0 must be skilled in the development area. It may be suited to those in the networking area who want to move into integration.

Interested resellers can contact Roy Brady at Centura Software on (02) 9427 0222.

Banksia's Audio Vision 2.0

Audio Vision 2.0 is video teleconferencing software for the home and office which allows users to communicate with live video and audio over either the Internet, intranet or via standard telephone line.

Banksia describes the product as "the fastest video telephone software for PCs" because it uses "advanced" compression techniques to send video at up to 10 to 15 frames per second or faster over ordinary phone lines. It works from most computers connected to almost any telephone line in the world and will connect to all standard H.234 video telephones.

Each box includes two copies of the software so that users can begin conferencing immediately. A copy of Audio Vision 324 is also included, allowing interoperability with any other H.234 compatible videoconferencing software product.

Whiteboard sharing allows users to load images or documents to share and markup with built-in drawing tools. Users can also trade files and documents during video conversations.

The Video Phonebook lets users catalogue and auto-dial frequently called numbers, and the video answering machine capabilities take video and audio messages when the user is away.

Video and e-mail messages can be recorded and sent compressed over the Internet or any other e-mail vehicle.

Users are provided with a "simple, intuitive" interface to guide them through the features and "extensive" online help for answers to any questions.

The pictures are 176 by 144 pixels, scalable to 352 by 288, and files can be transferred simultaneously to the other person while a video conversation is taking place.

The Audio Vision 2.0 has an RRP of $249 and is distributed by:

Simple Computing

Tel (02) 9427 8988 Fax (02) 9418 8112

Internet Modem - Banksia's Wave SP 336 - 'A rapid evolution of the modem'Banksia's John Papanidis told Australian Reseller News that "whereas only a year ago an Internet kit was a specially-made bundle of assorted components, these days standard quality modems ship as Internet solutions in their own right".

An example is Banksia's Wave SP 336 which incorporates Microsoft's Internet Explorer 3.01 and offers an array of Internet capabilities. The features of the Wave itself include 33.6Kbit/sec modem, fax/voice/data software, speakerphone, microphone, and Simultaneous Voice and Data (SVD).

RRP of the Wave SP 336 is $299.

Banksia

Tel (02) 9418 6033 Fax (02) 9418 8112

Simply 3D 2 from Micrografx

Simply 3D 2 is graphics software which gives business users access to "previously artist only quality" 3D images. It provides full Internet support with VRML 2.0 so that users can create 3D worlds for the Web quickly.

Simply 3D 2 is supported by Microsoft's Direct3D acceleration technology, so users can create their scenes solid shaped and texture mapped.

The technology also means that Simply 3D 2 can take advantage of the new generation of 3D hardware and Intel's MMX technology.

Simply 3D 2 is available now and is distributed by Tech Pacific and Q*Soft. Upgrade copies are available by calling 1800 644 298.

RRP is $125. The upgrade price is $59.

Micrografx

Tel (02) 9415 2642 Fax 9415 2641


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