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What Internet Slowdown?

These numbers don't just represent idle surfing, spam and chatter. People are indeed conducting considerably more business online. Consumer e-commerce spending last year rose 34 percent from the year earlier to $48 billion, according to BizRate. B2B Internet transactions are harder to quantify, but Gartner has projected the value of nonfinancial goods companies will sell and resell to one another over the Internet in 2003 at close to $3.6 trillion--$8.5 trillion in 2005. IDC's B2B estimates are more mundane but still striking: $1.43 trillion in 2003 and $5.12 trillion by 2006.

These statistics underscore the fact that people are ever-more comfortable using the Internet. For the most part, they trust it. In many cases, they rely on it as their primary work tool, whether they're communicating via e-mail with colleagues and partners, sharing inventory data with suppliers or processing customer orders.

The Real Champions

Surviving dot-com pioneers such as Amazon.com and eBay aren't the champions of the Internet economy. Rather, consider the likes of Dell Computer, Merrill Lynch, Procter & Gamble, General Electric, Staples, Herman Miller and Crowley Foods--companies that are redefining their businesses and industries through their Internet use. None of those companies was "Amazoned," as the pundits predicted three years ago. Instead, they've become more efficient producers, sellers, marketers and brokers--and, in many cases, more dominant ones--because they've figured out how to realign their companies around Internet-based purchasing, supply and customer relationship building. Even eBay sees the value in B2B, as it moves beyond its consumer roots into auctions of switches, servers and other capital goods for corporate buyers and sellers.

So, given the continued growth and importance of the Internet, which supporting technologies will drive electronic commerce and supply chains in the months ahead? Think security, directory, storage and data management--technologies that let companies reach out to more customers and partners while gating network access and organizing accumulated data into actionable information. In a recent Aberdeen Group survey of 150 senior IT executives, content/document management and query/reporting tools topped the list of applications that respondents intend to buy in 2003, while security products accounted for two of the top five infrastructure categories.