- The Washington Times - Monday, February 7, 2000

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif.

A few years from now, if historians want to pinpoint a date and a place where the Internet began its true convergence with just about everything else in life, they might want to cast a glance at the Internet Showcase conference held here Jan. 25-27.

Showcase, an Upside magazine-sponsored event now in its fourth year, has morphed from a showcase for hardware and software into the starting point for all sorts of "dot-coms."

That shift has been apparent for some time now. What's new this year is that the firms represented here seemed about evenly split between consumer and business oriented firms.

For small-office and at-home Internet users as well as in many business situations there are several worth noting, my favorites Internet business ideas included:

AllMeetings.com, which claims it "is changing the basis of competition [for hotels] to focus on total meeting costs," a company official said. Using a proprietary search engine, the Web site calculates a range of options based on meeting date, number of participants and daily rates for hotel as well as airline fares.

In a demonstration, firm Vice President Brian K. Ashton considered a 12-day meeting of 28 attendees from 14 different locations in San Francisco at a two-star hotel, with a total cost of $63,679. Using the AllMeetings.com service, there were a total of 30 offers, including a three-star hotel in Columbus, Ohio, which cut the total meeting cost by 52 percent, and two Las Vegas options which lowered the cost by 44 percent and 34 percent.

Lernaut & Hespie of Burlington, Mass., is offering the L&H; iTranslator Enterprise, which hosts machine translation services on a company's intranet. The software can process documents, e-mail and other texts, and is compatible with both Microsoft Exchange and Lotus Notes.

Bigstep.com offers what it says is an "all-in-one" electronic-business service, on line at www.bigstep.com, providing small businesses with step-by-step, design-it-your-way Web site building tools, as well as Web hosting and e-business services that include marketing, promotion and personalization technology for state-of-the-art customer relations, e-commerce, reporting and tracking tools. For entrepreneurs who are a bit nervous about going on line, the site seemed to offer a safe way to ease into e-commerce.

X:drive.com, of Santa Monica, Calif., made an impressive showing of its "virtual hard drive" technology. The company is one of several new Internet hard drive services that have sprung up over the past year that allow users to store, share and retrieve files for free from any Internet-connected computer.

Perhaps one of the biggest business-to-business winners at Showcase was Accesslease.com, which offers businesses a way to arrange for equipment leasing on line.

"When we came here, we had five or six [venture capitalists] talking to us; now I've got 25 who are interested," one firm official said.

You can't be too rich, too thin or too paranoid: If your PC is connected to DSL or cable Internet service, it may be vulnerable to hacking. That's the word from Zone Labs, Inc., which at the conference announced ZoneAlarm 2.0, an Internet security software utility. ZoneAlarm 2.0 provides essential protection for digital subscriber line and cable modem users by combining the safety of a dynamic fire wall with total control over applications' Internet use. ZoneAlarm 2.0 offers traditional security and application control in one simple interface, making it essential for PCs with "always-on" connections via cable or digital subscriber line modems. Internet users can download ZoneAlarm 2.0 at www.zonelabs.com for free, the firm said.

Want to buy a nice new house when you make your first million dollars? Check out HomeBid.com, a Phoenix-area firm that's setting up on line sales and auctions of home. The site previewed at the event can give great photographic tours of the homes on sale and offers all sorts of bidding possibilities.

Write to Mark Kellner in care of The Washington Times, Business Desk, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002, send e-mail to MarkKel@aol.com, or visit the writer's Web page (www.markkellner.com).

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