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Microsoft - America at Work
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From the Shelves of UNGER MEMORIAL LIBRARY for Friday, July 11, 1997

Doing Business on the Internet (America at Work video series)

The World Wide Web — the “bells and whistles” of the Internet with all the cool color pictures, sounds, and even video — is the great business equalizer. For a small amount indeed a creative one-person business can advertise its wares just as effectively as IBM, Sony, Coca-Cola, Minolta, or Gatorade. Just about all the ads you see on TV or in magazines these days include Web addresses to visit to find out more about a company and, of course, to place an order.

The Microsoft Small Business Marketing Group has produced a set of videos titled “America at Work”. Microsoft sent the Unger Library an unsolicited copy of the third video in this series, Doing Business on the Internet. Surprisingly, this hour-long video is remarkably good and gives non-initiates to the Web an excellent overview of the business capabilities of the Internet. Although Microsoft’s Internet Explorer Web browser is used (we use Netscape Navigator at the library) and there are occasional references to other Microsoft products, especially the ubiquitous Windows 95 (or Windows NT), for once I didn’t feel bludgeoned by Bill Gates’s patronizing approach to watching over me. Microsoft is THE big computer company, even though they play second fiddle to Netscape in the browsing business, and the more you use the Internet the more income will surely head Bill’s way. But if you want to see how the Web can be used as a business tool, this video will clearly show you.

On a question-and-answer forum at the end of the tape, one of the experts on the panel gives viewers the three advantages of Internet marketing: 1) increase your business; 2) reduce your overhead; and 3) improve your customer relations. Three small businesses are highlighted in Doing Business on the Internet and each has met these three basic goals. A dapper Colby Chester hosts this video and presents, in order, an “information broker”, a woman who sells jewelry, a profile of a company that markets video images on the Web, and an Internet consultant’s perspective.

Mary Ellen Bates, a former corporate librarian, does online research to keep her small business clients abreast of what other companies are up to. The Web is a “doorway to unlimited information”, she says, as well as a great communications tool. She discusses the various search engines and readily admits the role serendipity plays in browsing the Web.

Sherry Milne, owner of Milne Jewelry, sells her turquoise jewelry all over the world though her Web page. An example of “paperless documentation”, Milne Jewelry’s catalog is available online through a Web page she designed and produced herself. She feels the Internet “evens the playing field” by providing equal access to company information for anyone who browses, say, the “jewelry” Web pages.

Photodisc is a company that provides electronic images you can download (and pay for) immediately and drop into your own Web page. The owners offer two words of advice: you need to be flexible and you need to get on the Web now.

Finally, Lenny Charnoff, the owner of Netogether, an Internet consulting firm, talks about the computer equipment you’ll need to get started, how to get connected to the Internet and tips on selecting an Internet provider, and then how to use the Web software. He makes a valiant stab at answering the really big Internet question: What do I do next?

Throughout Doing Business on the Internet we see numerous computer screens with samples of Web pages. The three profiles are done with the business owner providing his or her own narratives and “tours” of their respective businesses rather than through the format of a usually drier interview. Their excitement is contagious and they show us not only how they have profitably used the Internet but also the virtually unlimited potential of world-wide interconnectivity.

If you haven’t used the Internet then this review will make no sense at all to you. Check out Doing Business on the Internet then come visit the library to sign up for a ½-hour session on one of our two public Web computers. There is no charge to use these computers and you’ll be able to see for yourself the wonders of the World Wide Web. It’s not all sales, to be sure, but if you want to market your business, large or small, the Internet is the essential tool nowadays. And you never know who in the world might come knocking on your electronic door.

(John Sigwald is the librarian of the Unger Memorial Library.)

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