For every action there's a reaction, and First Global Commerce, an initiative of Hewlett-Packard, VeriFone and EDS, is an apparent response to IBM-led Integrion. While HP may have a leg up in the Internet Commerce space-VeriFone

has a significant installed merchant base that HP hopes to tap-such an alliance does not a market make.

What First Global Commerce has going for it are big names: besides its founders, Citibank, Mondex, Wells Fargo, Visa and Royal Bank of Canada have all signed on as charter members, each paying only $5,000 to help defer administrative costs. The goal? Get players in the market to understand how EC should work, what standards are needed and how to move the market forward as quickly as possible, says Debra Miele, worldwide marketing manager of HP-First Global Commerce.

To do this, the initiative will rely on an open architecture to push enterprise payments, smart card transactions and Internet commerce, says Bob Murphy, director of integrated payment systems at VeriFone, who denies that First Global is aiming at Integrion and its potential payments dominance.

The founders have grand plans for the alliance. "First Global can help move the market," Murphy says. This also includes developing on-line banking and smart card solutions, says Miele.

First Global's next step: Announcements in February or March of other technology vendors invited to participate (fees are $10,000 per company), followed by merchants.

It is the merchant component that is key to the advancement of EC, says Octavio Marenzi, research director, Meridien Research. "Signing up large numbers of merchants that's going to be the challenge," Marenzi says. "In these kind of consortia, it's sometimes very difficult to tell what it is they actually do. This is more of a big splash, get the name out in the press, as opposed to some sort of fundamental change or shift in the market."

-sausner tfn.com

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