Few, if any, businesses have yet delivered on the promise of "on demand," but leaders are moving in that direction. Companies like American Express, GE, DaimlerChrysler, IBM, and UPS are investing heavily to become truly integrated businesses. Many startup companies are emerging to take advantage of "on demand," too. But older companies have significant advantages over startups if they can achieve integration quickly enough. They have loyal customers and employees, access to capital, established channels of distribution, and information technology infrastructure, as well as many legacy applications that could become assets.
The post-bubble backlash against the business models and profit potential of pure Internet companies may continue for some time. The early Internet companies demonstrated both the opportunities of the new technology and the potential mistakes that could be made applying it. Many of the surviving and newer dot-coms have been working to do better ever since.
A business not fully exploiting the Internet today is like a business in the 1950s not having a telephone. Industry by industry, the pacesetters are emerging. Many people who left the established companies to join startups returned to their former employers and are sharing what they learned out on the frontier. This may be the lasting legacy of the Internet bubble.
John R. Patrick ([email protected]) is president of Attitude LLC and former vice president of Internet technology at IBM. Mr. Patrick was a founding member of the World Wide Web Consortium at MIT in 1994 and of the Global Internet Project. He is the author of Net Attitude: What It Is, How to Get It, and Why Your Company Can't Survive Without It (Perseus, 2001).