February Editorial: e-go.maniacs: So I Went to an e-biz Show and This Is What I Found …

I love trade shows in New York. Not that I’m a fan of the Big Apple itself by any means, it’s just so convenient. I’m pretty much on my own schedule. I take a train in from Trenton, which, incidentally, has the best cup of joe at any price. Coming home, if a train is canceled, delayed or I happen to miss one, I simply grab the next. The Javits Center is within walking distance, there’s never any traffic to fight; no insane parking duels and certainly no airline with the I-couldn’t-care-less, shrug-the-shoulder attitude.

Once in the city, there’s always readily available, inexpensive transportation about the streets. And most importantly, there’s always a place to eat in New York, no matter what time it is – yes, even out by the Javits. For those who scoff that decent vittles can be had out in no man’s land, I strongly recommend O’Farrell’s public house at 413 10th. The meatloaf is to kill for; let the other guy die for his meal. And you might want to get a pint – if it’s the end of the day, of course.

Okay, so what about that there e-business show? That’s it … going to New York … that’s e-business, or at least it should be. Do you see the connection? E-business eases the journey, facilitates the transportation and reduces the stress, unless, of course, you’ve missed that last train.

We all heard about the Toys "R" Us refunds and screwed up online orders. Our kids were forever traumatized by stories of children who went without toys because their parents went to bed December 24 in their kerchiefs and caps saying to each other, "Don’t worry, honey, I’m sure the order will be here tomorrow morning."

But that’s B-to-C, or Business-to-Consumer. What about B-to-B or Business-to-Business? Well, despite all the hype, the Wall Street ads, the e-commercials on prime time, B-to-B e-commerce is still stretching its legs, and the door of opportunity is still wide open for anyone willing to jump through; but it’s closing fast.

Larry Weinbach, CEO of Unisys, recently insisted that there is a "second wave coming," to the shores of e-business. According to Weinbach, the electronic business of tomorrow will need to do more than "simply [put] an ‘e’ on its building." And it’s more than having a Web site with banner ads. Tomorrow’s (and I mean tomorrow, not next year’s) successful corporations will be those that combine the "dot.coms" with the bricks and mortars into a hybrid company. I think Mr. Weinbach is onto something.

Back to the e-Business expo in New York. I was actually expecting more vendors at the show, not that I was disappointed. Those who attended were quite intriguing. One vendor, mondus.com, was a business-to-business service for small to medium shops searching for systems, etc. I admit that my first reaction was "BIG DEAL" (the sarcastic kind of big deal), but, after further discussion and seeing the potential, I realized that this was a big deal. In fact, it was brilliant.

Commercial markets often drive the demand for better, more efficient and less expensive technology, while helping mold a model for corporate strategies. Mondus.com is merely (and I use that "merely" lightly, as I’m sure it is quite an undertaking) modeling the dot.com philosophy of business, to form a B-to-B-with-C approach.

Just as I can now go online to have insurance providers bid on my life policy or have financial institutions bid on my investment returns, from the privacy of my home in the comfort of my jammies; small- to medium-sized companies can do the same – okay maybe not in jammies – when installing anything from a few desktops to integrating a whole network. And that’s pretty cool.

Speaking of pretty cool. This month, ESJ welcomes Assistant Editor Traci Savidge. In addition to being our "crackerjack copy editor," Traci is responsible for fact checking, New Products, Inside IBM, Letters and Humor (the column). Traci comes from the legal side of hi-tech publishing, so she’ll also keep us honest, or better yet, help us not to get caught.

So what’s the chief lesson I want you to take away from all this? Traci’s cool? Sure. E-business is on the cusp? Maybe. There’s still time, but not much, to carve out your niche? Perhaps. Actually, it’s the next time you’re at the Javits, go to O’Farrell’s, and tell ’em Charlie sent you.