Pundits Say The Darndest Things

Geoffrey Smith, Business Week ebiz

Upshot: Online auction bidders - and anyone else desiring a person-to-person transfer of funds - have been stuck using paper checks. A few startups, including one owned by eBay, aim to change that.

The Contenders: EBay-owned Billpoint will automatically deposit a bidder's money into a seller's bank account, but its 4.5 percent fee may limit its appeal. Competitor i-Escrow has a harder case to make, charging fees up to 6 percent. Silicon Valley company Confinity offers person-to-person payment for free, but it needs to build consumers' trust, and "it's not an obvious moneymaker."

Quote: "It's too early to tell precisely how this will work. But I'll make this prediction: Sending money online will be easy, and free."

Bob Tedeschi, New York Times Cybertimes

Upshot: Companies such as WarrantyNow and RevBox offer extended service warranties online. Now, instead of having a shoebox full of untouched warranties, you can have ... a secure site full of untouched warranties.

The Model: Online warranty companies give warranty technology, and sometimes phone and online tech support, to e-shops. They usually offer cheaper warranties than traditional retailers, and they've partnered with repair shops across the country.

What's In It for Them?: "Not only can extended warranties generate more profit than the products they cover, but they give online merchants the chance to bolster what has generally been an anemic record of post-sale support."

Fred Moody, ABCNEWS.com

Upshot: A columnist orders 25 items from Amazon, then predicts the future of online shopping.

The Anecdote: Amazon gave great customer service but probably blew all its profits by breaking up orders into multiple shipments while keeping the shipping price the same.

The Prognostication: "The pioneers - Amazon included, alas - will die." Don't buy it? Neither do we, but at least it's different.

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