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Easy, e's

Experts debate whether it's time for e-words to kick back and take a breather.

We've said quick goodbyes to many buzzwords after the dotcom bubble burst. But what about those granddaddies of Web terms, "e-business" and "e-commerce?" Are these e-words even relevant anymore? We went to the experts--Marc Pearl, senior vice president and technology/communications/e-commerce practice group leader of Fleishman-Hillard Inc.'s Washington, DC, public affairs/government relations subsidiary, FH/GPC.; and Michael Drapkin, CEO of XB5 Partners Inc., a business, technology and management consulting firm in New York City and chair of e-commerce management for Columbia University's executive IT management program-and checked up on their vocabulary:

Marc Pearl: "It's all a question of how you're looking at it. The ultimate goal is for a recognition that business and commerce are not distinguished by the modes and channels of distribution. We never called it 'telephone commerce' or 'telephone business.' It's simply utilizing a technology in a more efficient and effective way.

"We're still, at best, at the adolescent stage of e-business. It is more efficient, but it's not that old. We need time to get a kind of ubiquitous global enterprise approach to a lot of issues that are not yet settled in law, not yet settled in the economy and certainly not yet settled in our culture."

Michael Drapkin: "E-business has taken its place as a legitimate and fundamental form of distribution. I don't think anybody thinks that any type of electronic business is going away.

"For the most part, the people who make money in electronic business are the same people who make money in other areas. Rather than becoming an end to itself, e-business is taking its rightful place with direct sales, catalog, telesales and whatever else you use to reach customers.

"E-business is a subset of business. It's just a particular way of doing business that happens to be very technology-dependent."

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This article was originally published in the May 2002 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Easy, e's.

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