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Wednesday, 17 April, 2002, 10:01 GMT 11:01 UK
Web is the future for business
Circuit board, Eyewire
The net is slowly becoming one big trading system
Business use of the web is about to get serious.

The next two years will see businesses start to remake the software they use to run their organisations as they start to put the net at the heart of everything they do, says a report by consultancy PricewaterhouseCoopers.

It predicts that the move to more web-centric ways of working will be aided by industry groups and software companies defining and standardising how programs should swap information via the net.

But it also warns that a lot needs to be done to make web-centred software secure and reliable before businesses start to use it in everything they do.

Test case

The annual PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) Technology Forecast attempts to work out what will be popular with companies over the two years following its publication.

The 2002 edition predicts that the next 24 months will see a pronounced move away from the get-rich-quick schemes of the dot.com era and over to basic technology and innovation.

Bill Gates and .Net logo, AP
Microsoft is putting a lot of resources into .Net
Many companies and start-ups are expected to focus their attention on so-called web services that use the net to co-ordinate the workings of companies, trading groups and, ultimately, entire sectors of industry.

Web services were likely to prove popular with businesses that had been left with isolated islands of computation in branch and regional offices as they moved away from mainframes to smaller, more distributed computers, said PWC consultant Robert Marano.

Web services, which swap data via the internet, were fast becoming the ideal way to link all these disparate systems together, said Mr Marano.

But before trading partners think about linking themselves together, companies were likely to prove to themselves that the technology worked by using it extensively within their own organisations, he said.

Standard process

To help them do this, many software companies and industry groups were now defining the standard format for data swapped as part of a web service.

"We are at the letter definition stage, and have really only just defined the alphabet," he said. "The next step is defining the grammar and vocabulary."

The next two years will see organisations working out how to build basic web services.

But, cautioned Mr Marano, the security and reliability of net protocols would have to be improved before web services could be widely adopted.

The standardisation process will mean that eventually companies will be able to go to online directories that let them pick and choose the components they need to create or join web-based trading systems.

See also:

15 Apr 02 | Business
Challenge to PwC Russian audit
14 May 01 | Sci/Tech
Mobiles mean money, probably
25 Jan 02 | Sci/Tech
Microsoft looks beyond the desktop
08 Mar 02 | Business
Sun sues Microsoft
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