Today marks the opening of the largest Internet trade show and conference
in the United Kingdom, Internet World UK. We parachuted in to give you a
heads up on what's hot in the land up over.
Here's a few soundbytes from the floor:
Don't count CyberCash as the only one seeking to provide e-commerce
payment solutions over the Internet. NetBanx Ltd. out of Great Shelford aims
squarely at the credit-card clearance market--one we think is perhaps the
largest one out there in the processing space if you consider all the
e-commerce yet to come. Will there be a global player here?
On the leading-edge front, TelePost provides a very sweet suite of
integration between your plain old boring telephone services and the
Internet. Also Web-based conferencing, unified messaging, and more. For
example, while browsing a Web site you could click on the phone number for
customer support and be connected via the Web right now. This is where
telephony is headed and we wonder how long TelePost (Santa Cruz, CA-based)
will remain independent.
This is further evidence that the Internet is taking over more and more
real-world applications. Abingdon-based CatchWord lets you publish academic
journals and sheet music using its RealPage and MusicPage technology. While
not huge in the e-commerce realm the fact that peripheral use of the
Internet in everyday realms provides insight into its spreading ubiquity.
Eventually will everything be "Internetized?" We think so.
The big players are also out in full effect as British Telecom's (BT)
booth promoted the business-centric services that only a large telco could
offer. It helps that the telcos have the cash to deploy and the customer
base to leverage into Internet services.
That doesn't always mean they get it right. BT seems to be one of the few
companies that does, despite the failed merger with MCI. We expect that BT
is on the hunt for another merger partner or it could be a target itself.
Where would a discussion on BT be without a mention of Cable &
Wireless which touts itself as the UK's largest supplier of integrated
communications, information, and entertainment services. As in the U.S.,
the wired war boils down to twisted pair (from the telephone companies) vs.
coaxial (from the cable companies).
Unlike the U.S., rolling out coaxial in a geographically focused location
like the UK or much of the nations in Europe is far less expensive. An
ironic notion flittered past us in that regard: Currently the U.S. leads
the Internet market, but what if high-speed services get deployed in Europe
first since the cost may be less?
It's up to the UK wire kings (telcos and cable cos.) to realize their
advantage in cost per thousand to roll out. London, England may be surfing
AOL at 1.5 megs per second while Steve Case, AOL's chairman, may be surfing
at T-1 at AOL headquarters in Vienna, VA.
Just when it looks like text is the only Web metaphor, IPIX UK lets you step into a 360 degree by
360 degree environment and take a look around. This includes boats, homes,
trains, planes and automobiles--any environment.
This sort of thing always reminds us of the promise of virtual reality that
so far hasn't been realized because bandwidth cannot support it. But we
expect very soon that these immersive environments could be huge as an
If you think Bill Gates' $40 million home with pictures that change as you
walk into each room is something, how about a home where every room is
always programmable to whatever environment you want? Or a World Wide Web
where video games are immersive? Or shopping Wal Mart aisle by aisle from
So if you think today's Internet investment landscape is locked in, the
sheer innovation factor keeps it from standing still. That's the great
thing about these Internet World shows--the power of new ideas is always
evident. That spells investment opportunity tomorrow.
More highlights to come.