Global Internet users will soar to 147 million -- more than the population of Japan -- while World Wide Web portal sites follow the consolidation trend, Internet stocks take a "dramatic" correction and PC prices continue to fall, according to 1999 predictions from International Data (IDC).
The Fourth Annual Predictions report by Frank Gens, a senior vice president for Internet research at IDC, also forecasts that there will be more US women than men using the Internet. And a majority of Internet users will, for the first time, live somewhere other than the U.S. Whatever their gender or location, Internet users will find fewer major players on the Web as mergers and acquisitions make headlines in 1999.
Gens envisions Yahoo entering a partnership with TimeWarner or CBS , while Microsoft jumps into the fray, buying a major portal to round out its Internet portfolio. Compaq might sell AltaVista and Infoseek and Lycos Inc. might merge. A major global financial services company could buy E-trade, which enables users to buy and sell stocks online.
Internet access will become common in retail stores and the trend will continue toward online customer service, with "live" salespeople ready at their computer keyboards to assist visitors at retail Web sites. Half of the US households that have Internet access will shop online in 1999 and retail Web sites increasingly will be voice enabled so that users and customer service representatives can talk to each other, according to the IDC forecast.
Besides computers, Internet users increasingly will turn to their TVs for access. More than 3 million Internet TVs will be in use in 1999, which also will bring a trend toward home networking with multiple users online simultaneously.
The surge in online use undoubtedly will be pushed by a continued drop in PC prices. Gens predicted PC prices will drop into the $US400 range. While that forecast is fairly routine among market researchers these days, IDC also is making a less-common prediction that disruptions from the year 2000 computer bug will be as low as 0.2 percent for business-critical applications.
The year 2000 problem is occurring because most old software code was written with a two-digit date field expected to read the "00" in 2000 as 1900, or be unable to read the date at all, and therefore fail to make correct calculations.
As for Gens' accuracy, he predicted three years ago that PC prices would fall below $1,000. That prophecy was on target, but he scored a slight miss last year forecasting that Oracle would buy Netscape Communications Corp.He got the year right, but the not the buyer -- America Online has in a bid for Netscape in a deal that also involves Sun Microsystems and is currently undergoing regulatory scrutiny.
IDC, in Framingham, Massachusetts, can be reached at +1-508-872-8200 or at http://www.idc.com/.