Customers slowly warming to I-commerce

Customers slowly warming to I-commerce

Bill Murphy, director of Internet marketing at Hewlett-Packard, sits in the eye of an electronic hurricane that is changing the way the world does business. IDG's Mike Vizard and Ephraim Schwartz sat down to discuss with Murphy some of the major issues organisations will face as they move toward an Internet commerce business modelVizard/Schwartz: Let's talk about I- commerce for a moment. It seems easier for small businesses and start-ups to get their arms around I-commerce than it is for large corporations.

Murphy: I wouldn't necessarily disagree.

Vizard/Schwartz: Many organisations have trouble talking to their own individual business units, never mind presenting a unified face on the Web to an external customer.

Murphy: Yes, large corporations may have trouble communicating internally, let alone in a consistent manner to their customers.

It starts with the intranet. Using Internet technologies within the organisation can, in fact, change fundamental business processes within the firm.

Some of them can be simple, like petty cash reimbursement. Or some of them can be complex and far-reaching, like distributed engineering on a worldwide basis.

Be that as it may, they rely on this infrastructure and Internet technology.

Now you wouldn't put that in your definition of I-commerce, but once people get the infrastructure in place - the experience of using the technology, the applications up and running, and the very tangible benefits, both quantitative and qualitative - they tend to move rapidly to the next step.

Extranets have the same basic set of ideas, but rather than inside your firewall, now you're outside the firewall, bringing people into your environment.

Supply-chain partners or distribution partners are examples.

The business applications would be things such as making sure that you have the right inventory at the right point in time.

Or it could be making sure that you have the right information and the right products to send to your distributors.

Vizard/Schwartz: So there's more going on in terms of business to business?

Murphy: Absolutely. Businesses are now asking two questions. Number 1, tell me what I can really do with it now, and number 2, why would I do it with you versus the other guys?

Vizard/Schwartz: And are you showing them what you can do with it by example?

Murphy: HP recently announced that, as part of its build-to-order initiative, information about systems will be posted on the Web for all our products.

Vizard/Schwartz: You acquired VeriFone

for secure payment technology. Will

consumers be able to buy an HP home

PC over the Web?

Murphy: We decided that will be a key part of our long-term strategy. We want to use that both internally and also market it to our customers. As far as using the technology ourselves, Web servers, home pages, doing electronic commerce, yeah, that's part of an overall distribution strategy for things like printers or PCs and so forth.

Vizard/Schwartz: Will you be able to order from HP over the Web?

Murphy: There will be certain products that you can order from HP over the Web. Yes. All Hewlett-Packard products? No.

Vizard/Schwartz: HP is making a big play in imaging, and I-commerce desperately needs some help in the imaging space to make the items more appealing to people as they surf the Web.

Murphy: We're currently shipping our Internet-imaging solution on CD. Right now, the CD contains a toolkit for developers to use this technology on their Web sites.

Vizard/Schwartz: Once image servers get out there, of course, the question becomes: how are the clients going to be made aware of the HP imaging technology?

Murphy: Well, now you get into the alliances with Microsoft and how we really present that whole thing from a client side. And, you know, we're doing all kinds of interesting things with Microsoft.

Vizard/Schwartz: So will Microsoft be supporting HP's imaging technology in Windows NT and Windows 98 sometime next year?

Murphy: Yes. I can make a broad statement, but there are still negotiations going on here and there.

Vizard/Schwartz: Is it still up for discussion in terms of whether that gets bundled in the OS?

Murphy: Yes, and what's in the operating system, what do they support, what do we support. It's in the ongoing discussions.

But that's clearly, I think, the state of intent of both companies.

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