John Lamb's Week: internet crash spawns new analysis industry

In his latest column to preview the upcoming week's key events, respected industry watcher John Lamb discusses the dot-com failure phenomenon, the role of biometrics in security and the reality of ASP adoption.

In his latest column to preview the upcoming week's key events, respected industry watcher John Lamb discusses the dot-com failure phenomenon, the role of biometrics in security and the reality of ASP adoption.

Analysing what's gone wrong with the dot-com boom is turning into a bit of an industry in itself. The founders of boo.com, for example, trousered $250,000-worth of advances for their book on the crash of the high-profile fashion site. Now the Bathwick Group is looking to cash in on the craze for ebusiness navel gazing. Tonight (Monday), the new economy research company is launching a site called WhyTheyFailed.com. Bathwick says that the venture is not Britain's answer to the notorious FuckedCompany.com, where employees dish the dirt on their companies. Instead it will provide serious analysis of where some of the better known internet businesses came unstuck, although there is a rumour and gossip section. Bathwick was quick to deny that champagne lifestyles and inexperience in business were mostly to blame for the failures of the 26 companies throughout Europe that will feature initially at the site. Usually more conventional business problems are at the cause of their difficulties, a spokesman pointed out. Judge for yourself by going along to the launch at Lab Bar, in London's Soho. Contact Steve Harris at sharris@bathwick.com for an invite. In the current film version of Charlie's Angels, the girl power investigators make their way into a vault by defeating a battery of biometric security systems including retinal scanners, head measuring callipers and thumbprint readers. In the real world, says Eddie Bleasedale of Netproject, biometrics is the best answer to the age-old security question: "Who goes there?" Bleasedale is convinced that measuring personal attributes beats security based on remembering pin numbers hands down. He has assembled a roster of experts from both sides of the Atlantic for a conference on the topic at the Commonwealth Conference Centre, London, on Wednesday. They will be looking at the public acceptability of biometric measurement, how the methods can be integrated with smartcard systems and the need for the industry to reduce the eight different standards currently in use. The lack of a single standard is a serious stumbling block to wider adoption of the technology. Find out more at http://www.netproject.com. On Thursday it's the turn of ASP to get the once over. Peter Slavid of ICL is chairing a conference called ASP: The Keystone to a Successful IT Strategy, which promises to get at the truth behind the hype. One thing is certain: the ASP model has failed to reach the army of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) it was originally thought would jump at the chance of cheaply off loading their tedious data processing and ecommerce tasks. In the event, it is bigger companies with more experience of outsourcing and less to lose if something goes wrong that have proved more willing customers. Certainly Access Conferences (http://www.access-conf.com), organiser of the event at the Crown Plaza, London, confides that it has come up with a special SME price in order to tempt the smaller organisation. However, Slavid says the conference will more likely be a partnering event for software companies and distributors, despite the inducements. It is early days with ASP. Software companies selling integrated applications such as ERP systems have led the initial phase. More recently the emphasis has been on ASP as an extension of the services offered by existing ISPs. However, despite the slow start the industry remains bullish about its prospects. According to a survey earlier in the year by trade body the ASP Industry Consortium, a third of UK businesses are aiming to use an application service provider at some time, while over half expect to be doing so within two years. Brace yourself for more hype. Other events worth watching out for this week are the beginning of US auctions of licences to run third generation mobile networks. Will Uncle Sam rake in as much lolly as some European governments, or has this particular milk cow run dry? Also coming up is Compaq's share buying spree. There must be a book in there somewhere about how the mid-range computer company of the eighties merged with the PC company of the nineties. More interesting than boo anyday.