Stories by Carol Hildebrand

Feature: Are Web services ready for you?

Any executive worth his wingtips knows that most exciting new technologies don't generally burst upon the business scene in full glory. Instead, they arrive in phases, like a space launch. You've got the lift-off phase, where gurus and techies foam with excitement about the concept's potential. (This also tends to be where the hype barometer registers its highest reading.) Then you have phase two, otherwise known as reality. Glitches show up, vendors start pushing proprietary solutions, standards bodies start pontificating, and users start tinkering with the technology in an effort to get it to work as originally advertised. If all goes well, you get phase three, in which the technology is finally mature enough to be widely accepted.

What Is EDI?

I thought electronic data interchange (EDI) was an old technology. Why am I still hearing about it?

Weird and Weirder

User heaven, capitalist hell: What could be more embarrassing than a website that lacks the requisite number of banner ads? It implies a certain, shall we say, lack of confidence from the business community in whatever product or service is being shilled therein. Fortunately, InPhonic Inc. wants to help disguise that unsightly ad-free expanse. The Washington, D.C.-based startup will provide companies with the opportunity to use unsold ad inventory as a launching pad to sell private-label cell phones. "Ad space on the Internet is like an airplane," says David Steinberg, InPhonic.com president and CEO. "When a plane takes off and a seat is not sold, it can never be sold again."

The Art of the New Deal

Do you like to play poker? Think you understand the rules? Imagine sitting down to your regular Thursday night game and finding that, suddenly, the rules are all different. A flush ain't a flush. Straights are crooked. Three-of-a-kind loses to a solitary ace. For seasoned business executives, with corporate success as your table stakes, the new, technology-driven economy is upending the game you knew and loved. Now that just about everything you know is wrong, how do you manage to do what's right?

Knowledge Fusion

For most companies, improper machine maintenance is probably a matter of lost profits: A little downtime, a screwed-up order, an unhappy customer. The Tennessee Valley Authority's nuclear division must play for higher stakes, however. For them, maintenance could be a matter of life and death.