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IBM Boss Sees $200 Billion in E-Commerce By 2000

IBM CEO Lou Gerstner said he thinks the market for Internet commerce will hit $200 billion a year by the end of the century.

Gerstner, a keynote speaker at the CeBIT information technology fair in Germany, said: "I believe that's a conservative forecast."

"It's not hyperbole to say that the 'network' is quickly emerging as the largest, most dynamic, restless, sleepless marketplace of goods, services and ideas the world has ever seen," Reuters quoted Gerstner as saying.

He praised Internet companies like bookseller Amazon.com as pioneers that are reshaping business practices, predicting huge consequences for public policy.

And he urged governments to ensure that people have cheap access to the Internet and warned against discriminatory taxes on electronic commerce, saying that privacy should be protected by allowing encryption of private and business documents.

Also at the trade show, Jozef Cornu, president and chief operating officer at French telecommunications group Alcatel Alsthom, took the wraps off new network technology that he said would enable Internet access 100 times faster than today's networks.

"Internet business will increase exponentially, with 10% traffic growth monthly and the number of users worldwide doubling each year," he said.

Klaus Eierhoff, multimedia chief at Bertelsmann, Europe's biggest media group, said German companies were more reluctant to embrace Internet commerce, but that the times were changing.

"Electronic commerce is not the distant future for us, but already reality," he said. "But we are at the beginning. We're at the place where the U.S. was two or three years ago."

German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, sharing the platform with Gerstner, also sang the praises of the Internet as the engine for new jobs and a vast global marketplace that never sleeps.

Kohl said Germany was rushing into the information age and that the booming sector would create thousands of jobs.



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