Portals may come unstuck in 2000, says IBM guru

The Internet portal sector could see some tightening in the coming year. According to John Patrick, IBM's vice president of Internet technology, business economics could start to weed out poorly-envisaged portal sites.

Patrick has identified two areas of "casualties" in 2000; dot-coms with business models that don't make sense and companies that were too cautious to carve a big presence on the Internet.

Patrick, who is responsible for shaping IBM's Internet strategy, expects all-purpose portals to meet greater problems in the market, while vertically-integrated portals could be increasingly popular. In particular, he sees community portals as gaining a higher profile.

"Hanging out has emerged in my mind as an important business," said Patrick.

He also cautioned businesses to take the expectations of customers more seriously.

"Expectations of people will drive the next wave of the Internet," he said. "People, not companies."

Looking ahead, Patrick sees a move toward ubiquitous access. Presently, more than 95 per cent of all Web pages are viewed using a PC and a browser. In two years, he expects that level to drop to less than 50 percent as the market moves toward Web-enabled mobile phones, personal digital assistants, pagers, kiosks and a new class of personal information appliances.

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