There are two emerging opportunities in the New Internet: wireless devices and real-time enterprise software.
The world already has twice as many cellphones as computers. In 2001, nearly 500 million new cellphones will be bought. The race is now on to add data features to the cellphones, and to add voice to PDAs (installed base of about 11 million). In both cases, what is clear is that the devices of tomorrow will be network- and data-enabled, truly providing anytime, anywhere access to information.
Writes Walter Mossberg in the Wall Street Journal:
- I believe afundamental distinction is emerging among hand-helds, one that will dominate and define the category in as little as two years. The key question will be: Is it a live device or a dead one? A live device, in the coming era, will be one that “lights up” in the presence of any wireless data network — instantly connecting to that network so it can exchange e-mail and instant messages and retrieve Web content. A dead device will be one that lacks that capability.
These “live” devices will need wireless networks. An interesting alternative to the highly expensive cellular network rollouts is the creation of community networks, based on wireless LAN protocols like 802.11b and leveraging unlicenced spectrum. These devices will also need software, security, billing and a whole new platform of applications to be created.
Real-time Enterprise Software
Imagine being able to close the financial statements of your enterprise daily – within fifteen points. This simple capability will define the real-time enterprise. It will need the ability to have visibility of information and integration across multiple databases – not just with the enterprise, but also across the extended enterprise, comprising suppliers and partners. Customers will need to be provided information in real-time also. The opportunity lies in creating an integrated e-business suite of applications, which that data is only entered once and is visible across the enterprise.
Says Ray Lane, General Partner, Kleiner Perkins:
- [A real-time enterprise is] a company that uses Internet technology to drive out manual business processes, to eliminate guesswork, and to reduce costs. The key feature of a real-time enterprise is spontaneous transaction flow. In most businesses today, an event like a customer order spawns thousands of transactions that go through a series of vertically organized departments. As a result, most companies have a highly fragmented view of their customers. A real-time enterprise addresses that problem.
The Internet is still the most important business platform of the past century. Nothing rivals the Net when it comes to reinventing business processes. Size begets complexity, and complexity loses. But the Net can enable big companies to behave like the small, homespun companies that they once were.
While there are many software companies working to target the larger companies (especially, the Global 2000), the small and medium-enterprises (SMEs) of the world have an equal need for such software. After all, supply chains are only as good as their weakest links, and SMEs comprise more than 80% of the supply chains.
Target the World’s Poor
While there is a significant opportunity in the New Internet in targeting the “developed markets” like US, Western Europe and Japan, there lies an opportunity which is perhaps a magnitude in addressing the 4-billion strong “emerging markets” of Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe and Latin America. In many of these markets where the penetration of technology and the Internet is still very low, the New Internet holds promise in helping these markets, their people and their companies leapfrog into the New World.
In the words of Paul Kampas: “Success will be based on the ability to translate opportunities and discontinuities into a vision.”