Users still reluctant to buy on the 'Net

If the crowd at Comdex is representative, many users are still squeamish about making purchases on the Internet.

If the crowd at Comdex is representative, many users are still squeamish about making purchases on the Internet, with security concerns as the overriding reason.

"I'm a little worried about security still," says Daryl Pipkin, product marketing manager at Tyan Computer, a motherboard and ISDN card maker in Milpitas, California.

Pipkin has not yet bought anything over the Internet. "Let them work the bugs out with somebody else," he says. "I don't want to be a guinea pig."

Pipkin's hesitation was shared by Terry McManus, product analyst at Exxon US, based in Kemmerer, Wyoming. "I don't understand the technology, and before making a purchase I would have to understand it a bit more than I do," McManus says.

But some Comdex attendees have made purchases over the Internet in spite of their reservations, including Shigekatsu Maki, president of Golden Micro Systems in Tokyo, Japan, a Tyan affiliate.

"Always there is concern," Maki says, although he has bought software over the Internet, giving out his credit card number in order to do so.

Nothing bad transpired, but Maki did have a scare when one company did not charge his card until six months after he made the purchase. Having forgotten the purchase, Maki at first thought that someone had illegally accessed his card number.

Though security concerns are the most common reason people give for not making purchases on the Internet, they are by no means the only cause for concern. "It's not a security issue whatsoever," says Pete Boehm, vice-president of sales at hotOffice, a technology solutions provider based in Boca Raton, Florida, in explaining his reluctance to make purchases over the Internet. "I'm still kind of a believer in a touch-me, feel-me world."

Physical contact with products is important for another attendee as well. Making an Internet purchase is "fine as long as you know the product, and it's not something you have to pick up and see and look and touch and feel," says Susan Hennessy, president of H&H Consulting Services, an Austin, Texas-based networking consulting company.

Hennessy's Internet purchases have been products she knew about beforehand, such as software upgrades, a scanner and plane tickets, including her Comdex flight to Las Vegas.

If security is a major concern to some attendees, others dismissed those fears outright, including Hennessy. With department stores transmitting information from their cash registers over a network to their corporate headquarters, buying at the store or buying over the Internet "is the same thing," Hennessy says. Hackers are a concern in either scenario, she says.

Still others are not making purchases over the Internet for a far more basic reason.

"In France it's not so common to be connected to the 'Net," says Pierre Baillot-d'Etivaux, market manager for Saft Advanced Batteries, a rechargeable battery-maker based in Romainville, France. Baillot-d'Etivaux expects to get Internet access in several weeks.

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