Pair line up for portal pioneer roles

Energy retailer First Electric and Web commentator and developer Bruce Simpson look set to be two of the pioneers in the second generation of Web portal development in New Zealand. First Electric says it is is in phase two of the four-phase project and Simpson says his portal is virtually completed and he is waiting for the right time to launch it.

Energy retailer First Electric and Web commentator and developer Bruce Simpson look set to be two of the pioneers in the second generation of portal development in New Zealand.

Citing commercial sensitivity, First Electric channel and product development manager Graham Dawson won’t say when its portal will be launched. However, he says First Electric is in phase two of the four-phase project.

He says the portal will provide a range of services including bill payment, bill view and usage history for the electrical side of business — anything customers can currently do via a call centre.

Dawson can’t specify who the portal partners will be but confirms First Electric is looking at telecommunications and financial services. He says it will be a multi-bill environment, providing a single point of access to multiple services. It will give customers the ability to access “many parts of the businesses that affect their lives, in one place”.

Dawson says potential partners have been enthusiastic. Most are familiar with the portal concept, but its practical application sometimes concerns them.

“With a lot of fairly traditional services, like financial services, there’s a very energetic desire to embrace new technology, but there’s always that conservative approach that things have to be fairly robust.”

He says the exciting part about the development is that it allows a range of partnerships to be developed with low incremental costs.

“You might have clearing house type activities — people who own major portal sites, bringing and allowing other partnerships to come on board on a lease basis.”

The man behind sites like Aardvark and 7am News, Bruce Simpson, is also developing a portal site at: http://here.co.nz.

He describes it primarily as a staging ground for a design and technology that he plans to move into the US market. The portal is virtually completed, and he says he is waiting for the right time to launch it.

Simpson says there is no single target market for his portal site. The aim is to attract everyone from school-kids to CEOs, but the market will be stratified into particular segments, each being addressed by a range of different services offered through the portal.

He says portals are becoming popular because they’re proven to work, and investors prefer safe bets to speculative ventures.

“This is goes double for the New Zealand investment scene.”

While he says there are some fine first-generation portals in New Zealand already (NZ Pages, AccessNZ and SearchNZ), he isn’t enthusiastic about all of them.

He says some have good search engines, Web directories or free email services, but all suffer from too much blandness and an attempt to be all things to all people. “They do everything okay, but nothing superbly.”

He believes the first-generation portal craze is reaching its end, and that second-generation portals will have more distinctiveness, variety, functionality and specialisation.

Meanwhile, Netscape’s US-based Steve Read, responsible for business development in the Asia/Pacific region, says there are no plans to localise Netscape’s Netcenter portal for New Zealand.

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