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Intel chairman: B2B e-commerce holds the future

If he were starting his career over again, Intel chairman Andy Grove would probably be found in an e-commerce start-up.

If he were starting his career over again, Intel chairman Andy Grove would probably be found in an e-commerce start-up.

"It appeals to me because it is very complicated. It can go fifteen ways or none of the above," Grove told reporters on the eve of the Intel Developer Forum in Palm Springs. "There is no certainty and that's what appeals to me."

Although the field until recently has played second fiddle to the more glamorous arena of business-to-consumer e-commerce, business-to-business e-commerce has emerged as one of the newest growth areas for the Internet. Commerce One, among other companies, has seen its stock price zoom in recent months as investors look favorably at companies that specialize in services or systems that allow other firms to trade raw goods online.

Intel itself has been active in the market as part of its strategy to branch out from its core expertise in microprocessors. The company last year started a business group largely aimed at providing hosting services for companies looking to transfer more operations to the Web.

Intel has also moved many of its customers to buy processors from the company online. The system shuttles billions of dollars worth of purchases online and provides customers with pricing information. Intel's own experience with e-commerce will be touted as a model to grow its services business, sources have said.

In addition to providing services, Intel hopes to capitalize on the demand for equipment that e-commerce will create. When asked about Intel's future markets for growth, Grove gave a one-word reply: "Servers."

Like many others, however, Grove said he sees opportunity but is unsure how the field will develop. Corporations will shift purchase orders from telephones to email and the Internet, but developments will--and need to--go well beyond that basic level.

"If it is simply a matter of one entity buying from another entity, it will not have any other major impact," he said. Hiring will also remain a problem. "It is very difficult to build up a fair amount of expertise," he said. "Internet companies are not free from this phenomenon."

The ultimate winners are also far from certain. "Grove's stock tips are not available," he said.