At a recent conference on e-commerce held in Monte Carlo, Monaco, IT research firm International Data Corp. (IDC) announced that more than $8 billion was spent on online e-commerce transactions last year. Framingham, Massachusetts-based IDC estimates this number will grow to an astounding $333 billion by 2002, when, it predicts, sales from Web-based transactions will account for nearly 1 percent of the world's economy.
With so much potential revenue waiting to be generated, more small businesses are looking for a quick, easy way to sell their products and services on the Web. This stampede toward e-commerce has spurred some of the larger technology companies, such as IBM and Compaq, to begin offering integrated e-commerce solution packages that consist of nationwide Internet access and e-commerce services (including e-commerce site-building tools) geared to small businesses.
IBM's Startup for e-business is a software kit that includes templates to help users build e-commerce Web sites without any knowledge of HTML programming, as well as a copy of Netscape Navigator and a trial offer of IBM's Internet Connection Services. Compaq, in partnership with Information Exchange Network Inc., NovaStor Corp., e-Parcel LLC and other Internet software vendors, has taken the e-commerce solution concept a step further with its Entrepreneur Services, a range of Internet-based services that address various business needs, such as secure document exchange, electronic postage generation, file transfer between computers and off-site data backup systems. While the online services are hosted at Compaq's worldwide network of "Digital Class A Data Centers," users must first acquire the necessary software, which comes pre-installed on some Compaq PCs and laptops or can be downloaded from Compaq's ClubWeb site (www.clubweb.com).