Gary Eichhorn readily admits there is nothing on his resume that directly prepared him to become president and chief executive officer of Open Market Inc. in Cambridge, Mass., three months ago.
But that may only be appropriate for one of the growing number of young companies that are essentially working in uncharted territory, developing secure retailing and payment systems for the Internet.
The fact that founder and chairman Shikhar Ghosh relinquished the chief executive's title may be a sign that Open Market has entered a new growth phase.
Mr. Eichhorn, who was a software executive with Hewlett-Packard Co. and Digital Equipment Corp., was charged with pushing Open Market into "higher- value commerce." One example will be a back-end transaction management system due out this spring.
Mr. Eichhorn said he also expects to play a key role in forging alliances with other companies. Banc One Corp., First Union Corp., and several major publishing companies are among the current customers and partners. Screen Phones Take a Licking ... Most bankers and their technology partners have lately been giving screen phones the backs of their hands. Once considered contenders alongside personal computers as delivery devices for remote services, telephones enhanced with display screens have lost most recent battles.
Banc One Corp. in January quickly pulled the plug on its three-month-old screen phone project, citing disappointing response from its customers even in what was billed as a trial. The first financial institution to announce a rollout of screen-phone- based banking with Visa Interactive, Banc One had hoped to get 2,000 of the devices into homes in the Dallas market. Most were to be sold through GTE- owned retail outlets.
The phone's $150 retail cost thought to be a vast improvement on earlier price points apparently was not cheap enough.
While he didn't completely rule out screen phones, Bruce Luecke, vice president of alternative delivery at Columbus, Ohio-based Banc One, said it will be investing more in services for personal computer. While the early verdict may disappoint those who saw the screen phone as a lower-priced alternative to the PC, some saw it coming. "We may be seeing the last gasps of screen phones," Adam Schoenfeld, an analyst with Jupiter Communications Co. of New York, said when the Banc One project was announced in September 1995.
* ... But Don't Count Them Out Yet Despite the prevailing opinion in banking circles, screen phones may still have a life. Unwavering in its commitment to the technology, Philips Home Services has struck a deal to start deploying tens of thousands of the devices in California this year. The interactive products unit of the Dutch electronics giant Philips NV plans to distribute 30,000 of its high-end phones through an arrange ment with Enova Corp., the parent company of San Diego Gas and Electric. The pair also intends to build a network to encourage consumers to pay their bills via the screen phones. With the support of major utilities and other big payees, screen phone makers hope to develop their version of a "killer app," using bill payments as a foundation for banking, electronic mail, and even more sophisticated interactive services. And many providers remain "device independent," open to various delivery methods depending on how the market evolves, and screen phones have not lost their status. Colonial Data Technologies Corp., which makes phones for U.S. Order and in turn for Visa Interactive, last month introduced the long-awaited new edition of its Smart Telephone. It incorporates more PC-like features, such as the ability to send electronic mail, shop from electronic catalogues, and send simple messages to pagers. Philips announced last year that it would use Oracle Corp. technology to provide E-mail capability. And Metromail Corp., the Illinois-based data base company, has struck deals to offer its nationwide telephone directory through screen phones.