E-Services for Everyone

PALM SPRINGS, CALIF. (01/27/2000) - Interested in making some serious money on the Web? Join the crowd at Showcase 2000, where burgeoning Web businesses roll out their online wares. Some highlights from this week's event:

What's Better Than TV?

ABC News headliner Sam Donaldson warmed up the audience of high tech execs and investors in his usual emphatic style peppered with a surprising number of tidbits about Internet companies and technologies.

"We know we're dinosaurs at the commercial [TV] networks," Donaldson said. "The Internet is where everything is headed." Still, the Net has a way to go before it will match basic TV picture quality. For now, "why log on to watch an inferior product?" he asked.

Sites like ABCnews.com try to compensate with interactive elements such as chat rooms. Donaldson noted with amusement that if some of the remarks made about him online were printed in a newspaper, "I'd sue you."

Donaldson conceded that calling his chat-session style 15-minute Webcast interactive was "almost fraud in advertising" since viewers sent in their questions beforehand. "The day of real interactivity will come when the computer-viewing audience all have cameras and we can talk back and forth and make the viewers part of the program," said Donaldson.

He also predicted that news stars like himself, Peter Jennings, and Dan Rather will inevitably lose their status as authority figures because the Internet offers so many other sources of information and opinion. "The days of 'I'm wise and smart so only listen to me' are over," said Donaldson.

Calling All Experts

If you want some real experts, check out Expertcity.com. This site provides a network of hundreds of live experts on the Internet to help with computer, finance, and business problems.

You can go to the Expertcity Web site and simply pose a question, such as "How do I do a chart in Excel" or "How do I find the best mortgage?" The requests get posted to the network of independent consultants Expertcity offers, who in turn bid on the job. Many simple requests may be answered free, as part of an introductory offer. Other requests are typically bid for $5 to $10, depending on the complexity, and are answered on the spot.

Expertcity features screen-sharing technology which lets an expert view your computer screen and use whiteboard features to walk you through a process or annotate a procedure with drawings, arrows and other indicators. The two of you can also chat live in a window. Customers pay Expertcity, which takes a cut of the fee and passes the rest on to the expert.

"You can be very specific in your request, like asking for help from an Intuit expert, and we'll try to match you up," says Expertcity founder Klaus Schauser.

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