5/31/00 Marm's Memo: Defining Moments

In Parade magazine, Whoopi Goldberg is quoted as saying, "I fear waking up one morning and finding out it was all for nothing. We're here for a reason. I believe a bit of the reason is to throw little torches out to lead people through the dark." In a fast-paced world, that's changing exponentially even as I write this, the beauty of the journey is often defined by moments of happiness -- both professionally and personally. Let's look at some that are impacing our lives.

INFORMATION ECONOMY The next 10 years will consist of a sustained economic growth where e-business, global computing access, wireless data and genetic engineering will be the major influences of the expected 15 percent growth in IT markets, according to Gartner Group's Dataquest. This will lead to the "Information Economy" where data and information will be the new currencies.

WEB SERVICES Increasing numbers of households will be signing up for Web and data services, to the tune of 80 percent of the 100 million households projected for 2003. And wireless technologies such as Bluetooth will play a vital role in making devices for getting online easy to use. By 2003, the telecom market will be closing in on $2 trillion, a 12 percent growth rate, and most of that will be from services. "Smart" phones will help to push early market evolution.

BROADBAND Bandwidth -- the speed at which you can transmit data over the Internet -- is measured in bits per second, with different kinds of data demanding different amounts of bandwidth. There is broadband, meaning high-speed Internet access, and narrowband, the use of dial-up modems that access the Internet via public telephone lines designed for voice data. Broadband can be delivered through a variety of mediums fiber-optic cables, coaxial cable television lines, satellite access and telephone lines (via DSL, or digital subscriber lines).

Broadband is coming, and soon, with key applications and consumer demand driving broadband deployment, ensuring that DSL and cable modem subscriptions will hit 35 million by 2005. Research firm Forward Concepts reports that broadband's greatly enhanced services, especially for home access and small/ office customers, will keep the DSL-cable race moving at a fast clip. Although cable is currently ahead, DSL will start growing rapidly. Cable's lead will shrink, but is predicted to have more subscribers in 2005, thanks to its strong base in the home market.

HOAXES Ever so often I get an e-mail telling me that the FCC is preparing to tax Internet use, that there is legislation pending in the US House of Representatives, sponsored by Rep. Tony Schnell that would impose a per minute tax on service providers. I am urged to contact Congress and oppose the legislation. There are a couple of problems with this. First, there is no such legislation pending. Next, there is no US Congressmember Tony Schnell. However, because they are responsive to their constituents, and probably because they're tired of getting E-mail's from them, the House passed by voice vote, a bill to prevent the FCC from imposing the charges outlined in the hoax e-mail.

VIRUSES A computer virus posing as a resume from a job hunter could present a potential problem for workers logging on after the holiday weekend. Similar to other recent attacks, the virus works by clicking on an attachment in an e-mail. The subject line of the malicious e-mail reads "Resume -- Janet Simons." The attachment is labeled "resume.doc" or "explorer.doc." If activated, the virus deletes files on a user's system and propagates itself using the Outlook e-mail directory. Virus/Hoax Updates

CUSTOMER SERVICE Last week the Society of Consumer Affairs Professionals in Business released a survey of 5,911 Americans aged 18 and over to explore how and why consumers use online customer service. 89% said 24-hour availability was why they preferred online. 64% cited searchability. 60% of online buyers have used e-mail to contact customer service. 75% of those expect a reply within a day. "Normal business hours" are only normal from the company's perspective. Customers want business hours that are right for them.

Studies show that "convenience" is a main driver of e-commerce. You'll be more profitable if you change your operations to make things easy for your clients instead of making them cater to you. The magic is in the mix. Think about how you use your website, phone, e-mail and other communications in concert. Technology can help you, as a timely tool, but remember people are the answer. Customer service and customer relationship management can give you a major competitive advantage.

NET PARITY According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, in the last six months, a surge of more than 9 million women coming online has led to gender parity on the net. The Pew study found considerable evidence that women's use of the net, especially in regard to maintaining personal relationships, differs from men's, with women clearly finding it beneficial. When it comes to buying products, 49 percent of men and 46 percent of women have bought something online.

NET ACCESS Roughly half of US households now have Internet access. Even more folks connect while at work. They're a pretty diverse group. Highly social folks use it to socialize more, whereas analytical folks use the net for research and analysis. Whatever you do or want to do, the net can give you new possibilities and new tools.

GLOBAL TECHNOLOGY Scientists in India are embracing the new "mantra" of technology to help the country's farmers battle the unpredictable gods of weather. At a southern regional conference of computer professionals, the focus was on how technology can be used to help manage the farmer's timetable, plan crop establishment, control insects and rodents, manage water, and help with marketing. India has already started its plan to get information to farmers by setting up a website where technical agricultural information can be shared.

The Internet travel business is going through its first wave of consolidation, and analysts say bigger changes are just around the corner. American Express will no longer cover transactions on adult Web sites, saying the decision was based on the high level of customer disputes. Japan's NTT DoCoMo Inc. is in discussions to acquire a significant equity stake in VoiceStream Wireless Corp. in a deal that could be worth billions of dollars.

MERGER TRENDS The merger trend continues as IBM orchestrates a new Internet marketplace with 10 major telecommunications and electronics companies. The benefits are that suppliers can place bids for business from major industry buyers online, and buyers can control their inventories of parts more effectively, both pushing down prices. Chip giant Intel and streaming-media king RealNetworks Inc. have developed compression and playback software that should sharply improve the quality of video played online. Yahoo! has entered the streaming media player fray, and is currently beta testing its Yahoo Player.

E-LEARNING If e-commerce can accelerate business, why shouldn't e-learning cut training costs? Growth-training and education is vital in the corporate world and more important today than ever, given the velocity of change and turbulence in the workplace. Employers want their people to be highly proficient and workers want to perform better in their present jobs and stay marketable. The problem? Demands of our work leave little time to attend seminars.

The solution distance learning. Training is going to become more essential in the computer-science field. According to state Department of Labor projections through 2006, the four fastest-growing jobs, by percentage, are technology-driven. Database administrators will lead the way, growing 83 percent. Systems analysts will increase 65 percent, computer engineers will increase 57 percent, and computer support specialists will increase 57 percent.

SMALL BIZ NEWS Small businesses are increasingly establishing themselves on the Internet according to the recent report by Access Markets International. The report, co-sponsored by Inc. Magazine, notes that spending on online transactions and purchases jumped from $2 billion in 1998 to $25 billion in 1999. AMI finds small businesses are keeping up with technological change as well. Of the 7.4 million small business estimated to be currently active in the US, 4.2 million, or 57%, access the Internet. Another 1.8 million (18%) have high-speed access. However, only 8% or 600,000 are e-commerce small businesses

Savvy small businesses are using the Internet to enhance their appeal to local customers. To succeed on the Web, small merchants must become service companies, getting to know their customers so they can anticipate future needs and offer services that big online retailers can't provide. Through services and products offered on Web sites, businesses can drive customers

KIDS & THE NET According to a recent study published by the Annenberg Public Policy Center, The Internet and the Family 2000, nearly 75% of teens consider it all right to reveal private family information on the Internet in exchange for gifts. In particular, the report states that older kids (13-17) are more likely than younger kids (10-12), and boys are more likely than girls, see this as acceptable.

The study also showed that, in general, parents were positive about Internet usage by their children. 89% said it would help them with schoolwork, 85% believe children discover fascinating, useful things they have never heard of before on the Internet. Parents registered two inconsistent positions the Internet was valuable to children but at the same time gave children access to problematic material.

EDUCATION: High school students using the Net to search for college cash are surfing their way to 1,000's of dollars worth of scholarships. The National Association of Colleges and Employers says nearly half of this year's graduates have jobs. Career-placement officers at many schools say employers begin wooing students as sophomores and juniors. Summer internships increasingly are trial runs for year-later jobs. Candidates with high-tech training are still in short supply.

DIGITAL TOOLS The next boom in e-commerce will likely come from the U.S. Congress as the Millennium Digital Commerce Act grind through the legislature on its way to becoming law. The law would make digital signatures as legally binding as wet ink signatures. If businesses have a legal backing for accepting and giving out digital signatures, they can open up e-commerce to larger and more sensitive types of transactions. Earlier this year, Transmeta Corporation unveiled the product of $100 million and five years of secret toil -- fast, low-power chips that could very well revolutionize the mobile industry.

E-COMMERCE SOFTWARE As U.S. e-commerce spending moves toward a projected $2 trillion (US$) by 2003, the market for packaged E-commerce software is also expected to increase dramatically, according to Forrester Research. The report predicts that U.S. infrastructure expenditures will grow from $3.1 billion in 1999 to $14.5 billion by 2003, with online companies increasing their use of complementary plug-in applications to customize and gain flexibility.

WIRELESS UPDATE Recent figures released by the country's three cell phone operators showed the number of Japanese mobile phone users with Internet access will top 10 million by the end of May. About 18 percent of Japan's mobile phone users will be equipped with Web- compatible phones by the end of the month. The people who build and maintain the technology that moves data around the world this week are jousting over how to take the Web wireless at the World Wide Web meeting. Wireless appears to dominate.

The arrival of several hundred million Wireless Application Protocol (WAP)-enabled phones -- 525 million by 2003 -- is forcing the W3C to figure out how to deal with all these Web users who canít sit still long enough to use a tethered computer. The idea of being able to access all information, anywhere, anytime, was part of the original vision of the Web as defined by its creator Tim Berners-Lee. Commuters pouring into the city of Milan, Italy can't avoid seeing the multitude of billboards for mobile phones. Italians who have been reluctant to join the PC craze are getting their first taste of the Web from their wireless phones.

The recent CTIA (Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association) conference held in CA, centered around the emergence of wireless as a medium for shoveling data over the airwaves. From tracking where the kids really go after school, to automatically telling 911 where you are, using untethered communications will soon become more commonplace and more important than using your PC. A third of all Americans now have cell phones and there are new users signing up at the rate of every two seconds, a year-on-year growth rate of 25 percent.

NET MAINSTREAM You know the Net's achieved mainstream status when parents and grandparents are coming onboard in record numbers. They're spending big bucks on the Internet and even starting online businesses. Women have overtaken men to become the dominant gender in online shopping as the number of females using the Internet continues to surge. Women have traditionally been responsible for 80 percent of household purchases and buying decisions. As more online purchases take place , women will take charge in that world as well.

E-COMMERCE The Internet keeps moving toward a future in which e-commerce is an indelible part of the way we lead our lives, and high-speed Internet access is the rule for homes as well as colleges and workplaces. In the latter half of the 20th century in this country, an economy built on heavy industry has been transformed into a services, information and entertainment economy. An estimated 120 million worldwide Internet users, 1 in 4 people online, have already made an e-commerce purchase.

And 7 out of 10 people surveyed considered themselves very satisfied with their latest online purchase. Although only 850,000 small businesses -- having fewer than 100 employees -- were engaged in e-commerce transactions in 1999, a U.S. Small Business Survey projects that figure to double to 1.6 million this year and leap to 2.9 million by 2003. As small businesses make the jump from online presence to online store, they will be looking to use the services of companies like TechnoNet that provide Web hosting.

TELECOMMUNICATIONS The House voted overwhelmingly to repeal the 102-year-old federal tax on telecommunications, as lawmakers continued their campaign to tear down Internet-related levies. The measure, which would gradually eliminate the 3% excise tax on telecommunications services, is part of a broader congressional plan to offer consumers tax-free access to the Internet.

NET POLITICS Presidential plans for action in cyberspace. Al Gore: prod Silicon Valley to create $100 Internet appliances for schools. Educators should figure out the few basic tasks students need a computer to do -- surf the Internet, run educational CD-ROM's -- and then challenge technology companies to build simple School-net machines with bids on the Net driving down costs. George W. Bush: concerned about Social Security numbers floating around out there in 'Etherland, and would look very closely at different ways to protect privacy. Before companies can use information, they must seek express permission from consumers before passing information on to others.

ON THE RISE Crusoe chips and Linux operating systems. Linux-based OSes have the leading market share of Web servers powering the Internetís public Web sites, with 31 percent of all sites, according to a Netcraft study. Linux is the kernel of the operating systems that engineers at Red Hat and others build. The Internet itself would not function without the open-source tools that power it, giving the user the benefit of control over the technology the user is investing in.

PERSONAL DEFINING MOMENTS: Taking part in the wedding of my beautiful daughter, Stacy, and her new husband, Tim. Enjoying my children at the rehearsal party. Sitting in the movie theatre with my grandchildren, watching "Dinosaurs." Having Rachel's birthday party at The Children's Musuem. Holding Trevor in my lap as his Mom drove to the emergency room after a romping with Grammy and a fall required stitches. Watching the grandkids win my Rotary Club's drawing.

Being a part of a Rock and Roll show at the Stanley Theatre. Watching new family puppies romp on our front lawn on Mother's Day. Being there for my out-of-state daughter as she shared by phone the sad loss of her finance's sister. Visiting my Mom in the nursing home as she shared her pride in learning to walk again. Watching a Memorial Day parade from my front porch and waving to our County Exec as he walked by.

YOUR DEFINING MOMENTS: What have been some of your recent defining moments, those moments that were a turning point for you, either personally or professionally? And have they made a difference in your life and the lives of others? "Life is made up, not of great sacrifices or duties, but of little things, in which smiles and kindness and small obligations win and preserve the heart', said English chemist Humphrey Davy.

MAKING A DIFFERENCE: Looking back on life, what we most fondly remember might be, not what we accomplished, but the joy we shared along the way to those accomplishments. We can choose, moment by moment, where to put our attention, emotion, and intention. "If you think you're too small to make a difference, you've obviously never been in bed with a mosquito," wrote Michelle Walker. I don't now about you, folks, but I'm going to continue to take a bite out of life.


Copyright 2000 by Marlene B. Brown of TechnoTouch Marketing Strategists. Marlene's Memo is a short, free sample of the in-depth material she researches for her clients. Please feel free to forward. (Columns available for newspapers and magazines.) Reproduction for publication is encouraged, with the following attribution: From "TechnoTouch Trends", an electronic bulletin produced as a public service by MarmeL Consulting Firm. Written by Marlene B. Brown, business futurist, marketing strategist, web designer, professional speaker, author of TechnoTouch: Business in the Age of Digital Connectivity©. (315) 853-1318 or marlenebrown@adelphia.net. http://www.technotouch.com/ =================================================
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Marlene B. Brown, MS, CSP, CMC, Business Futurist
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