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Industry heavyweights join to address key e-biz problems

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More than 20 vendors banded together last week to form the Business Internet Consortium, which will try to address some tough problems enterprise users face in the e-commerce arena.

Members, including Computer Associates, Dell and Microsoft, say the goal is to provide a think tank for developing e-commerce technologies and best practices users can follow to make doing business over the Internet easier.

The consortium is considering forming workgroups that would address specific issues, such as how XML can be used to transform traditional business practices into e-business practices, and how users should integrate existing business systems with new e-business infrastructure. Other workgroups may address improving the exchange of e-business information over multiple devices, such as mobile phones to PCs.

The group is also looking for input from users. It already announced that two high-profile companies in the financial arena have joined the consortium - Capital One and Charles Schwab.

John Sommerfield, a spokesman for Schwab, says the company hopes the consortium will serve as a clearinghouse for e-commerce issues.

"We use technology to communicate to our customers," Sommerfield says.

"We have five call centers that handle between seven and eight million calls per month and a Web site that at peak load does $25 billion in securities transactions a week. What we are hoping is that this consortium allows us to communicate with our vendors and drive solutions for our customers," he adds.

With high-profile users and vendors involved, the consortium has credibility coming out of the starting gate, but its success is still uncertain. Observers say it will have to avoid pitfalls other consortia have faced, such as infighting between vendors and an inability to affect any real change. There is also a confusing plethora of consortia - including RosettaNet and the Universal Description, Discovery and Integration Project - all seemingly trying to solve e-commerce problems.

Still, Dwight Davis, an analyst with Summit Strategies, says he thinks this newest group is needed for several reasons.

"There is a lot of confusion out there about the deluge of technologies coming into the market and uncertainty about moving into Web-based computing," he says. "There is a need for some neutral body to guide companies along the way."

Business Internet Consortium: www.businessinternetconsortium.org

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