This holiday season is expected to bring 1.3 billion visits to shopping Web sites, up 71% from the estimated 760 million in 1998, according to Net Effect Systems.

"Sites need to be ready for this onslaught of clicks," said Julie Schoenfeld, president and chief executive officer of Net Effect. "Consumers are coming to sites to shop and will have basic questions about timely holiday delivery and credit card security."

Net Effect's "The First Annual Survey on E-Commerce Service" showed that impulse-buying could claim the lion's share of Internet sales, even though people often use electronic commerce sites to browse.

The findings mean that consumers need help -- in real time -- when buying. It also explains why low-risk and low-cost items such as books and CDs are the most frequently purchased items.

"The really smart sites will have live help buttons and automatically assure e-commerce shoppers of credit card security and guaranteed delivery," Ms. Schoenfeld said. "Handled properly and efficiently, sites have the opportunity to convert shoppers to buyers but, more importantly, gain consumer confidence and loyalty."

Seventy-four percent of respondents expressed concern about transmitting credit information over the Internet, and 72% worried about whether the goods they purchased would be delivered on time.

STAMFORD, Conn. -- Research by GartnerGroup indicates that the financial services industry is the heaviest user of the Java programming language, with an emphasis on self-service systems.

Financial companies -- banking, insurance, and securities -- account for 37% of Java use and will continue to be the biggest users through 2004, according to the GartnerGroup report, "Java at Work: Industries and Application Types." Java has been promoted by its developer, Sun Microsystems Inc., as especially flexible and well suited to rapidly evolving services that can be delivered via the World Wide Web to personal computers, kiosks, and smart cards, among other "thin client" devices.

Finance was followed by higher education at 19% of Java usage and retail/distribution at 11%. No other category, such as manufacturing, health care, transportation, or publishing, was above 7%.

Self-service applications were prevalent in 67% of all Java systems, GartnerGroup said. More than one-third of Java systems are in the financial field, where loan calculation, loan applications, and bank account transactions are prominent self-service functions.

"The financial services industry realizes that self-service is a powerful paradigm for attracting clients and reducing costs," said GartnerGroup research director Joseph Feiman, "and one of the most popular tools for developing self-service applications is Java."

FRAMINGHAM, Mass. -- The number of users of remote and mobile devices in the United States will jump from 35.7 million in 1999 to 47.1 million by 2003, according to International Data Corp.

An increase in telecommuting and more mobile workers are driving the trend, said Stephen Drake, senior analyst with IDC's Remote Intranet Software research program.

Several technology enhancements also are spurring increased acceptance of worker mobility, including improvements in notebook technology, the emergence of smart hand-held devices, and expanded use of virtual private networks and high-speed Internet access for faster transmission.

"These technologies can make remote and mobile users more productive at home or on the road than they are in the office,'' said Randy Giusto, director of mobile and display research at IDC. -- Carol Power

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