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  • Universally Accessible Non-PC Devices are Vital: IBM Chief
  • September 21, 1998 (TOKYO) -- IBM Corp. Chairman Louis Gerstner stressed the importance of electronic commerce and the need for terminals other than personal computers to give all people across the globe equal access to computer networks.
    Gerstner made the remarks in his keynote address at IBM Fair '98, held Sept. 16-18, 1998 at Makuhari Messe in Chiba prefecture near Tokyo.

    "By the year 2000, the market for electronic commerce will reach US$200 billion a year worldwide and about $20 billion in Japan," Gerstner predicted. As evidence for his forecast, he spoke of the importance of network-enabled businesses, noting that already four percent of new cars in the United States are being sold through computer networks. He also cited the example of the U.S. Air Force, which uses networked bidding systems to reduce the time and cost of procuring materials.

    Enterprises benefit in two ways by using electronic commerce, according to Gerstner. One is lower transaction costs. "An airline company was able to cut the cost of issuing tickets from US$8 to US$1 per ticket. A bank reduced its per-transaction costs from more than US$1 for over-the-counter manual processing to just one cent," he said.

    The other benefit is the absence of entry barriers for new businesses in the world of electronic commerce. Gerstner gave some examples, such as a beer plant in Scotland that markets its products worldwide with a staff of only four people. Even small- and mid-sized companies can compete on equal terms with major players, he pointed out.

    But network computing cannot become ubiquitous "unless we have an environment that allows fair and open network access to everyone in the world," Gerstner stressed. For this to happen, "governments have to encourage competition in telephony and other areas of telecommunications," he said. His comments were taken as an implied criticism of the monopoly structure of Japan's communications industry, which is often said to be the reason for the high cost of communications in Japan.

    Gerstner also argued that the present-day personal computer cannot remain forever dominant. "The PC today is bloated with functionality and too expensive. For over a billion people in the world, a PC costs more than their annual income."

    The key to making computer networks equally accessible to people everywhere in the world is to develop tools other than PCs and to make them widely available. The development of network computers, kiosk terminals and other such devices will create opportunities for companies to provide all sorts of services, Gerstner said.

    (BizTech News Dept.)

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    Updated: Fri Sep 18 16:25:07 1998 PDT