Daniel Amor
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  • E-Business (R)Evolution, 1st Ed
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  • Title: E-Business (R)Evolution, 1st Ed
    Author: Daniel Amor
    Publisher: Prentice Hall, New York, 1999
    ISBN: 013085123X
    Pages: 650
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The New Paradigm

Over the last few years the Internet has evolved from being a scientific network only, to a platform that is enabling a new generation of businesses. The first wave of electronic business was fundamentally the exchange of information.

But, with time, more and more types of businesses have become available electronically. Nowadays we can buy goods online, book holidays or have texts translated over the Internet in an instant. Home banking, for example, is one application that is already provided by most banks around the world. Looking up your balance, transferring money and other transactions are done every day by millions of people. Public administration has discovered the Internet as a means to talk to the general public at election times. And it will not be long a time before we see general elections decided on the Internet.

The reason why I have called this book "The E-business (R)evolution" is that the approach is twofold. Technology has revolutionized the way we can do business. But business itself is only slowly adapting to the new possibilities. The New Economy needs a new paradigm, but the process of conversion will take some time to complete. The necessary technology is ready and waiting. The e-business in the title is not the same as IBM is seeing it, it is much more, as you will discover by reading this book, therefore the "B" in e-business is not written in capital letters as in IBM's case.

The Internet is changing the concept of programming applications. We are moving towards pervasive computing and towards electronic services. The Jini technology is one of the first implementations of what one could call "one world, one computer." Jini allows every device to talk to every other device in a common language. A device in this case can be anything with a silicon chip inside it and an Internet connection. Other companies have started to develop similar paradigms, technologies and visions, such as IBM's T Spaces technology and Hewlett-Packard's E-Services strategy.

Most probably you already know the example of the empty refrigerator that sends an e-mail to the grocery with a request for fresh milk that will be delivered to the doorstep before breakfast in the morning. Prototypes have already been built. A bar-code reader is able to detect which products are put into the fridge and taken out afterwards. For many people this won't be a necessity in the future. The grocery is more than just a place where people can buy food. It is a social place where people meet, which cannot be simply replaced by two chips. But for those who do not have the time to do the shopping or are not able to walk to the grocery, this may become an option.

New technologies are emerging slowly. In Helsinki, for example, it is already possible to pay for a soft drink with a cellular phone. Instead of inserting coins into the vendoring machine it is possible to call the machine with the cell phone with a special number which in turn releases a can of soft drink. In Europe more people have cellular phones than computers, therefore the crossover of communication technology and information technology is on the verge. Through cell-broadcast people with GSM cellular phones are able to receive news flashes, which can keep them up-to-date on the latest political and financial developments. The future of computing lies in devices and not stand-alone personal computers.

Other applications may be more useful to all of us, but the Internet is generally not designed to be a mass-media such as television or radio. The Internet is an infrastructure for many mass and niche markets. Two appliances, which may be suitable for many car owners, are the following:

  1. Cost Saving — Imagine your car sending a request to all petrol stations within ten kilometers to find out which one is the cheapest. The navigational system of the car will then direct the driver to that petrol station.
  2. Life Saving — After an accident the car is able to detect how severe the crash was and will call an ambulance and the police, if appropriate.

Pervasive Computing

Pervasive computing is therefore the next logical step in the evolution of computers. The Internet has enabled the connection of computers and allowed them to exchange information. Connecting all types of devices will create a network that is thousands of times larger than the current Internet, offering more than simple exchange of information. It will enable businesses to offer services, which can be basic such as "print something onto the nearest printer" or complex as "create a short document on the financial situation within the company."

In such an interconnected world everything becomes part of one huge system. This may sound like the evil Borgs in the Star Trek saga who tend to say: "You will be assimilated." The Borgs are a civilization that work and live in a collective; they have only one mind. Without the other members of the collective they are lost. Their mission is to assimilate all other cultures and to incorporate all other technologies into their own. They believe that resistance to change is futile.

Hopefully the introduction of new technologies will not be based on pressure but on agreements, understanding and cooperation. Otherwise it could be seen as very worrying if this goal is achieved on propriety standards, or it could be totally superfluous if this goal is achieved by wasting useful resources. It can also mean a leap into the future if this New World Order is built on open systems, open sources, open standards and open services. It remains to be seen if Jini will succeed, but the general direction is set and everybody will have to follow it over the next few years in order not to fall behind.

Pervasive computing is only just getting off the ground, but getting to know all about it will give you the edge over your competitors when it comes to implementing it. But before getting into pervasive computing, one should think about one's business idea. In order to be successful on the Internet it is necessary to get that right first, otherwise the best IT infrastructure will not be of any help.

Business on the Net Today

If you look at the current situation, you can divide the Internet presence of enterprises into six phases:

Most companies nowadays are somewhere near or between phase 2 and phase 3. Most of them are moving towards phase 4. One important part of this book is to show what will happen after phase 4. Pervasive computing is the most likely thing to happen. The book will show what such a world could look like and what the alternatives are. It tries to identify the standards and the owners, and tries to find out what the Internet will be like in five years time.

Who Should Read This Book

This book is intended for the electronic entrepreneur who is either thinking about setting up an e-business or has already set one up. It provides you with a checklist of all the important items in the e-business area. You can check immediately how much of your business is ready to go online. After having read this book you will be able to build up your own e-business or enhance it dramatically to make it not only yet another web page, but also a real financial stronghold for your company.

The book is the basis for your e-business decisions. The information given in this book is not technological hype that will evaporate next year; it will be the basis for your e-business over the next few years. The book covers all the topics required for a complete and secure e-business solution. On the other hand it does go into great depth in each topic, so that you will be competent enough to decide which of the solutions described fits your needs best, and you do not have to rely on someone else.

The major question for all technologies in this book is: "why should I use it?" There are enough books on how to use a technology and many people know how to do it, but many people forget to ask why. Sometimes it makes sense to avoid new technologies, as it does only add an extra overhead to the work that needs to be done. Whenever people come up to you and explain a new technology, do not ask how it can be done, but why it should be done.

The book contains many examples and links to web pages. As the Internet is changing every day, it cannot be guaranteed that every link will be available at the time of reading. As a convenience to the readers, a web site has been set up which contains a list of all examples used in the book. The list on the web site will be updated in regular intervals. In addition to this the web site will contain links to other e-business sites and more information on the topics in the book. The URL of the web site is http://www.ebusinessrevolution.com/ and will be available from the time of publishing.

How This Book Is Organized

The book is divided into four parts. The first part is the foundation for all your online activities. It introduces the reader to the basic concepts of the Internet and how to do business via the Internet. It takes both, technology and business, into consideration and does not forget to talk about the legal aspects of doing business via the Internet. Finally it explains how marketing on the Web should be done in order to be successful. Without marketing your online business will lack the visibility it requires to succeed.

The second part talks about how e-business applications are used for Internet, Intranet or Extranet based applications. It looks at the questions from all perspectives, client software, middleware, and back-end systems. It's focus is on search engines, portals, shopping and ORM sites and last not least one chapter is dedicated to the communication possibilities via the Internet. Using this information you are prepared to go online and discover other businesses, what they offer and how they did it.

The third part explains the technologies that are below your applications. This is done from a technical point of view as well as a business point of view, in order to show you the business cases that are viable right now. Each chapter contains a set of business cases that are evaluated and it is explained how Internet technologies help to resolve issues with the business cases or how to extend one's business through new technology.

The fourth part is an outlook onto the future of electronic business and gets into more detail on how software and hardware will be developed in the future. The Open Source model is explained and how pervasive computing has been implemented. The last chapter of the book gives an outlook into the future on how it may happen.

Appendix A offers a glossary of e-business terms, which were used throughout the book. In case you do not understand a certain term, have a look here. Appendix B describes how a business can be moved to the Internet and what is required to do so. It does not only list the ideas, the required hardware and software, but goes also into detail regarding the costs and the benefits. Appendix C is a short list of my favorite web sites, ordered by subject areas.