EU's online market to outpace US - Bezos

 

Europe has the potential to overtake the United States as the world's most important online marketplace despite the fact that it remains largely untapped, according to Amazon.com's founder, Jeff Bezos. "The rate of growth for Amazon in Europe is dramatic, much more dramatic than it has been historically in the US. . . people here believe e-commerce is not taking off, but that's not the maths that I see," he told an industry conference in Stockholm.

Amazon plans to roll out more local language websites following the recent launch of its French site, www.amazon.fr. "Long term we would like to have a local presence in every country, but that's going to take a long time," he said. He defended his company's aggressive push into new markets as shares in his company continued to be hit by doubts that it would ever make money. He said that Amazon, which started life five years ago as an online bookseller, intended to offer an increasingly wide range of products around the world.

Big Blue's Fishkill: IBM is to spend $2.5 billion building an advanced chip-making plant as part of a $5 billion expansion. Through the expansion at its East Fishkill, New York facilities, IBM, which employs over 2,000 people in Ireland, said it expected to be the first chipmaker to mass-produce semiconductors at microscopic line-widths below 0.10 micron - 1,000 times thinner than a human hair and far thinner than the 0.18 micron technology now used.

Intel Media: Intel is moving into Europe with its Internet media business that will let customers transmit anything from movies to conferences on the Net. The announcement follows the granting by An Bord Pleanala of permission for the company to go ahead with an extension of its Leixlip plant, in Co Kildare which will create 1,000 new jobs by 2004. Intel said it was opening a new broadcast operations centre in England to serve customers throughout the continent.

Online Shopping Shock: Internet shoppers run into problems with more than a third of online purchases, according to a guide released last week. The British Trading Standards Institute claims late deliveries, wrong orders and even disappearing companies are among the pitfalls faced by customers. They found that 38 per cent of orders did not arrive at the specified time and 17 per cent did not arrive at all. Problems included a firm which took credit card details then vanished and a national flower delivery chain which failed to pass on the bouquet but took the cash.

Trading Up: Despite the negativity expressed in the above report, more than one-quarter of all British businesses trade online, putting the country on a par with the United States and Canada and ahead of other European Internet pacemakers, the British government has claimed. Technology minister, Ms Patricia Hewitt, said 27 per cent of British business is trading online, while 81 per cent have some form of Internet presence.

Net Tax Hoax: The Internet's power to deceive was highlighted again last week during a debate in the New York Senate race. Hillary Clinton and Rick Lazio were how they would vote on a purported US plan to tax the Web. The question repeated a widely circulated Internet hoax making the rounds since 1999. Both avoided would-be specifics of the non-existent bill. The false rumour involves a fictional Congressman Schnell who is said to have proposed a five cent tax on email in order to subsidise traditional mail.

Nobel Prize: A Russian and two US-based researchers won the Nobel Prize in physics last week for work that helped create modern information technology, leading to everyday devices like pocket calculators, CD players and cell phones. The chemistry prize went to two Americans and a Japanese scientist for their discoveries that plastic can be made electrically conductive. "The physics prizes are about the electronics of today and the chemistry prizes are about the electronics of the future," academy member Per Ahlberg said.

Beeb Beats Cyberflyer: The BBC has won a landmark ruling preventing a rogue company from using a website address similar to its own for illicit purposes. An American based firm had been using the address www.bbcnews.com to attract users but people logging on were finding a gambling site rather than one related to the broadcasting corporation. The BBC applied to an international arbitrator to rule on the situation but the day after the complaint was lodged the American company transferred to Belize - a process known as "cyberflying". Despite the change in location the arbitrator ruled that the domain name of www.bbcnews.com should be handed over to the BBC within 10 days.

Time, Aol Deal Gets Nod: The European Commission last week approved the $129 billion merger between AOL and Time Warner on condition that links with German media giant Bertelsmann were cut. The EC also requires that the new company sever ties with a joint venture with Bertelsmann in France. The merger had faced smoother sailing since Time Warner dropped a separate joint venture plan with EMI which would have created a major music company.

NBC'S Gold: US broadcaster NBC generated the highest Web traffic during the Sydney Olympics, even though 95 per cent of its traffic was limited to the US, AC Nielsen research found. The official Games' site, olympics.com, was the key "go to" site internationally attracting surfers from every corner of the globe.

Online Award: Irish Internet movers and shakers, Colm Grealy and Barry Flanagan, who established online.ie have been named as Ireland's Internet Industry Persons of the Year, at the Web Ireland National Internet Business Awards. online.ie was also named Ireland's Best Media Website.