Internet Story: 19 December 1999
Woolies Online Early last Saturday (11Dec1999) morning the Woolies web site was finally born after a long labor. They have a range of about 400 items from toys to CD's and Videos/DVDs. There are also some larger items such as a range of CD players for sale. Two unique features of their offering is that they will guarantee delivery before Christmas on orders placed before midnight on 22nd and, returns can be made to local stores! No other retailer in the UK is currently matching this. Another great feature of the site is their use of Multimap (we use them on Pendle.Net) to supply details of store locations - vastly superior method than most companies use to locate stores/branches! (BTW, shipping is £1.99 for order less than £50, free for >=£50) On another note, the Argos site was out of action all of last week due to "a backlog of orders". It was back online yesterday (13th). See article on Argos.
Special Note: before you buy from EToys take a look at what they're up to first.
Our Price Offline In marked contrast to the Woolies offering, Our Price Records have just opened (I use the term loosely!) their site but they must have been watching too much Stargate - On entry to the site you're immediately jaunted off to another browser window and land at a bang into a closed door. Why, oh why, do sites still practice these needless bells and whistles. There's no need for another browser window and if you don't have the Macromedia Flash plugin then you can't get in! I've no idea what's on the site as I refuse to tolerate any more of this nonsense - if I want to buy CDs I don't want dazzling by some graphic designer's idea fun. Apparently this is a "toe-in-the-water" site so that they get some experience of selling on the Web.
Shaken not Stirred The Margherita 2000 is the latest in Internet devices - a washing machine! Developed in Italy by Merloni Elettrodomestici S.p.A under the Ariston brand, the $1400 machine connects to the net via either a built in GSM phone or a phone line. It should be on sale in the UK in spring 2000. Now, not only can you have your refrigerator order supplies from the supermarket and your microwave get the latest recipes from the net, but you can know when your washing is doing a spin whilst you're sitting on the beach relaxing. The device allows remote monitoring of washing activity, alerts for error conditions and automatic requests for the manufacturer to service the device. Now, if it could only fold the dried clothes and put them away :-)
BT finally gets a clue! Unmetered access from March 2000? Did BT make a business decision or was it pushed by the government? (Oftel - "we'll open the local loop right now if you don't obey!" ;-)) Whatever the reason, it's certainly a step in the right direction. For £34.99/month you get 24/7, full on, unmetered access to the Net - Surftime (uses a new 0844 set of numbers). Now that's still twice as much as the US, but it's going in the right direction. What will be interesting is how the Free ISP operations will cope with this. Within the space of just over a year we have seen the birth and the first signs of death of the free ISP - they can only survive now if they start to charge for access (or do some other deal through advertising, etc.). This is the real start of the Internet revolution in the UK! See link to CUT and ZDNet story, as BT's Broadvision web site is so bad that you can't link to many pages inside it! Meanwhile, Telewest announced that it will be offering a £10/month unlimited access package for its customers! Watch out for all sorts of "free" calls and ISP offerings in 2000.
Andrew Stringer, © Pendle.Net Ltd, 1999
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