Competing marketplaces

Two e-business marketplaces have been established, both with impressive lists of backers. Serious competition should be on the...

Two e-business marketplaces have been established, both with impressive lists of backers. Serious competition should be on the cards. But haven't we been here before?

David Bicknell


Remember when earlier this year, General Motors and Ford were going head to head with the formation of two e-business marketplaces with two different technology suppliers.

And they were going to compete so much so that in the end they decided they'd rather not compete, and ended up merging the two marketplaces within Covisint, as it is now called.

Well, history is repeating itself. After the launch of the GlobalNetExchange, founded by Sears and Carrefour in February with Oracle as its baseline technology platform, we have a competitor.

Now, the WorldWide Retail Exchange - backed by Kingfisher, Kmart, Marks & Spencer, US drugstore Walgreens and CVS among others - has chosen its technology platform. And surprise, surprise, it's not Oracle. This time, the winner is the IBM-led triumvirate of IBM, i2 and Ariba, which appear to have set themselves up as the Three Musketeers of marketplace technologies. IBM's group beat out another formed by Andersen, Microsoft, and Commerce One.

I'd like to think that these two marketplaces will compete with each other, but long-term, as with the auto marketplace, I just can't see it happening.

Neither of these marketplaces has world leader Wal-Mart on board. There are lots of sales numbers of members being floated around, but ultimately they will still either have to compete with Wal-Mart - or court it.

According to some reports, of the $100m budgeted for start-up costs, a fair chunk is for technology spending. I'm not surprised, nor am I surprised by the claim that it expects to be operating electronic auctions by the end of next month. It is always going to be ready in just a few weeks time.

Pardon my scepticism, but I'll believe these things really are up and running, when I see the nitty gritty, rather than a few vacuous statements about transactions and savings. Sears, for example, claims GlobalNetExchange members have made more than $100m on purchases since March.

So, if these two marketplaces do follow the same route as their auto counterparts, what is the integration situation like between IBM-i2-Ariba - and Oracle?

If you are the IT or e-commerce director for one of the players in this space, you might ultimately be asking yourself what this means for your future planning. And of the 11 or so founding companies involved in the Worldwide system did they all agree on the choice of IBM-i2-Ariba - claimed to be more "open" - as their main platform? What about those that dissented, or does everyone believe this will fit perfectly with their existing supply chain systems?

The American Bar Association has called for a unification of laws affecting world e-business.

The 100-member committee has spent the last two years reviewing online legal and jurisdictional issues, and produced a report recommending the formation of a global online standards commission.

Great idea - but how's it going to be implemented? And, which organisation is going to lead the efforts? Will it be the United Nations, which has model laws for e-commerce, the OECD, G7, Global Business Dialogue, Internet Society or Net names/numbers group ICANN? Or are we going to spend more time wringing our hands about how little unification, integration, joint action there is? Time for some leadership, please!

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