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August 26, 1998


An interview with Tom Burns of Intel

Email this story to a friend. Back to IIW coverage index. In the middle of the hurly-burly at the India Internet World '98, Intel's Tom Burns answered a few questions on electronic commerce that Madhuri Velegar K put to him. Burns is director of the comapny's Asia Pacific Content Group. Excerpts: How would you define e-commerce?
E-commerce means transacting business and services on the Web.

Do you think it is necessary to look at e-commerce as being 'on the Web' or 'off the Web'?
I am not sure what you mean by 'on the Web' or 'off the Web'. But in today's basic Web industry, if you are Net based on the Web, you should be able to meet the challenge of reaching those users who are on the Web.

Once you are on the Web, you can give them better services. You can support them. You can give them more options.

So, the question is that how do you learn to use the tool called Web? You can offer customer service, update information and provide more convenience. How do you learn to use the Web to drive your business strategy?

The Web is not going to replace all the retail business. It is going to be a combination of the two?

What are some of the competing standards for e-commerce security and protocols today?
Things like SSL, SET and a number of new ones are working their way through the IETF today.

What are the advantages and disadvantages they have over one another?
That's a hard question. A lot of issues are involved. One is the type of use. Another is the size of the technology's installed base. SSL has become popular because it is enabled by the Netscape and Microsoft browsers. But SSL's level of security has not strengthened.

A majority of e-commerce has been bank draft transactions and credit card transactions. These have been reasonably accepted round the world.

But as you do more transfer of money from your checking account to your savings account or from your own account to another's, the security levels are going to go up.

Intel's been advertising something called the 'common data security architecture' (CDSA). It is a very broad standard that encompasses authentication and encryption. No one can misuse it. Operatibility becomes hard. So, if you are an encryption company and you hit CDSA's number, that will apply to all PCs. Now Compaq, Intel, IBM are on the CDSA bandwagon along with other companies.

How can these standards be decided?
We know from experience in the PC industry that a small group gets together with a high interest in making a particular standard successful. It could be five or ten. Other people say why can't they support other companies. But hopefully, the enlightenment seen in the last two years on this issue translates to the marketing structure outside.

Why create a standard and not have anybody follow it. It does not make sense.

Can you do some visionary stuff on the evolution/trends of e-commerce? What kind of products will be the first to be sold and bought over the Web?
In India?

It's very hard to say. I would think this is an opportunity for India based personnel and companies. An opportunity which says 'my people need this in my country and I can start it on the Web'.

In the West, we've started by putting books and CDs on the Web because people have already sold themselves over one artist's CD. They like Madonna so it's very easy to sell. Everybody knows what a book is. They can get more information on it if they want. But selling software on the Web is difficult because of its complexity. In the future that should get easier. Travel has also been made easy.

Do you think exotic stuff like the Microsoft Wallet and the Navio operating system will become popular in handling e-commerce?
There's going to be a need for cybercash soon. Not many offer that today. In e-commerce it's hard to put all that on the wallet or Navio. You can't still put all those transactions on them today. There hasn't been a killer ap yet. These gizmos are primarily for email and an little bit of Web surfing.

Lots of e-commerce will be desktop based and higher performance laptops or desktops.

How is policing done in an e-commerce environment?
Policing is very hands-off. You can lodge a complaint in the US Consumer Protection Bureau and PC magazines warn you about certain sites. Credit card companies are allowing a cyber purchaser to contact them if they have a problem with a vendor. The company then talks to the vendor on your behalf.

What are the chances that e-cash will largely replace money as we know it?
Trust is involved here. From taking a gold coin to accepting a rupee note took a lot of time.

It will be possible when we get there but it will be decades and decades before it happens.

A true currency should not discriminate but here we are talking about an elitist currency. How can a silicon chip based currency not discriminate?
I don't believe in the elite silicon chip theory because cost of computers are falling rapidly. A year ago you would talk about a $1,500 PC, two days ago I saw an ad on the Web of someone selling a PC for $399.

Look at the Indian market. The price is coming down. Semiconductor people are bringing cost benefits and facilitating technology. It's what we call Moore's law. Every year allowing cheaper and cheaper cost of computing.

For PC fans, this year the figure seems to be a 100 million units. And these numbers keep growing.

I think a lot of people are thinking, my children need to know this tool, the road to the future.

Back to IIW coverage index. Our job is to help promote awareness of a tool to surf the Internet with, learn history and buy and sell software with. Have fun with, basically.

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