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Tech Industry

Is banking for the future?

Banks must move quickly to maintain their central role in electronic commerce against competitors from other high-technology industries.

Banks must move quickly to maintain their central role in electronic commerce against non-bank competitors from the telecommunications, entertainment, and software industries, a Visa USA executive warned yesterday at an Internet commerce conference.

"They see opportunities in financial services that were previously unattainable," Carl Pascarella, president and CEO of credit card giant Visa USA, told conferees at the Gartner Group's Internet and Electronic Commerce Expo in San Francisco. His card association is owned by member banks.

Also at the conference, a slew of companies introduced new e-commerce products.

Advertising rep firm DoubleClick unveiled software for advertisers that tracks how Net surfers who click on ad banners behave once they arrive at an advertiser's Web site. Testing of the software, called Spotlight, began last week. It will be available soon to advertisers that buy banners on the 25 Web sites DoubleClick represents. The service, targeted at direct marketers on the Net, costs $5 per 1,000 ad impressions.

PictureTalk announced that Hewlett-Packard will market PictureTalk's visual communication software for intranets in major corporations. They also will pursue opportunities in multicasting, customer service and support, and interactive training.

Systems integrator SSDS announced that its coupon software will be integrated into point-of-sale systems marketed by ICL, a $4.8 billion, majority-owned unit of Fujitsu. The first touchscreen kiosks in grocery stores will allow retailers to generate targeted electronic coupons for specific customers that are scanned in at the checkout stand. The system will be rolled out in the northeastern United States early next month.

Separately, a top software executive speaking at the conference predicted that because of intense competition between browser vendors Microsoft and Netscape Communications, revenue from Web server software will surpass Web browser sales this year.

Michael Zisman, executive vice president and CEO of IBM subsidiary Lotus Development, also predicted that Web server income will eventually generate ten times the revenue from Web browsers. Lotus is attempting to reposition its Notes groupware to function as a Web server, and will introduce a version of the software with better Web hosting capabilities late this year.

"Content without collaboration is useless," Zisman declared, saying Lotus will compete with Netscape and Microsoft for collaboration software.