Dell Computer Corp. Chairman Michael Dell played the role of the world's biggest cyberfan as he set out to dispel myths about the Web and tout his company's brisk holiday business.
Dell's keynote at Fall Internet World began with a simulated newscast featuring a reporter who said the Internet is a niche market, a fad used only for consumer surfing or simple business transactions, and that it would level the playing field among companies.
Dell, whose company has made millions selling computers directly through the Web, refuted each point, using his company as an example.
"We're very much at the beginning of a new era in the way companies do business," Dell said. "Find me a business that's not on the Web, and I'll show you a bus that's out of touch with the future."
Dell said one third of his U.S. business is done through the Internet. He expects to do 50 percent of all business over the Web during the next couple of years.
Dell said his company already has had a few $6 million dollar days during the busy holiday rush, thanks to Web purchases. Such buying frenzies will help drive the company toward the $12 billion in revenue it's expected to post this year.
Dell said the Internet is no longer a niche market, and it will only broaden as more diverse users sign up. He touted Forrester Research figures saying 33 million households will go online over the next 12 to 15 months. Dell said his company is expanding its international presence, and his Japan site ranks among the 15 most popular in that country.
He also discounted those who view the Internet as a fad, saying that it can only enhance business. He then cited The Wall Street Journal's 700,000 paying subscribers and the fact that GE Corp. has completed more than $1 billion worth of Web-based transactions from its site.
"We're seeing a transformation of industries and buying habits," Dell said.
Finally, Dell said the Internet would not level the playing field among businesses. Instead, business that embrace it quickly will reap the most rewards, he said. Dell said the Internet saves money because Dell consumers can visit a customized site for information about their computer, reducing the need for support staff. The company saves $8 each time person visits its order status site instead of calling.
"We consider one of the advances to be service and support, yet it doesn't get quite the attention that Internet milestones like revenue get," he said.