Web Services Provider's key markets for DSL are small and medium businesses, nationwide. Web Services Provider's key markets for Web hosting and resale accounts are Web design firms, individuals, and small businesses with a need for space on a server. Web Services Provider's key markets for dedicated servers are small to large companies where security and speed are necessary. Web Services Provider's key markets for co-location include medium and small businesses such as online trading, e-tailers, online information sites, and entertainment companies.
Within these markets, Web Services Provider focuses on the more lucrative dedicated server and co-location clientele because they create less overhead and more profit than equal revenue generating, smaller clients. Additionally, these markets require less service-intensive efforts and create more profit. Its' margins are 40%-80% on larger and medium size clients.
Computer telephony integration (CTI) is the convergence of the telephone and computing industries. Currently, the CTI market totals $4 billion and is growing at 30% a year, with many segments growing at a rate of over 100% a year. The Washington-based MultiMedia Telecommunications Association estimates that the CTI market will grow by nearly 70% in the next year, and triple by the year 2000.
Consumers improve their shopping experiences
In a relatively short period of time, the Internet has provided the savvy consumer with a number of benefits, particularly convenience and information. Obviously, consumers who shop online face a much different experience than they would in "real-world" retail. First and foremost, a shopper need not leave the comfort of home or office in order to make a purchase. The convenience of online shopping has proven to be a big attraction for many consumers, particularly for goods that are not needed immediately, like books, CDs, or apparel.
The information that is currently available online is another boon to consumers. It is relatively easy to conduct research on various products over the Internet, giving consumers all the information they need to help make an informed decision regarding a major purchase. Consumers can thoroughly research big-ticket items like cars, electronics, or computers for desired features, product performance, or price. The cost of a product has become simple to research through many search engines. A consumer need only specify a product, type it in the appropriate place on a comparison-oriented website, and then examine the resulting list of prices, which contains links to the selling websites. While consumers do not always purchase the lowest-priced item, the nature of the Internet makes comparison shopping so easy that prices in many categories of goods will undoubtedly decline over time.
4.1 Market Segmentation
Web Services Provider is aiming to establish itself in markets that it believes will define the future of Web hosting. The company is pursuing dedicated server and co-location accounts, online trading companies, and e-entertainment companies because they need bandwidth, 24-hour access for their customers, faster connections, and other services for their clients which the company able to provide.
The company's target customers are as follows.
As of year-end 1998, almost 160 million users accessed the Internet regularly, up from approximately 101 million at the end of 1997, according to IDC, an industry analysis and research company. Clearly, the Internet is in an exceptional growth phase. This growth has pushed the capacity of existing networking infrastructure to its limits, resulting in frustration by Internet users.
Still, consumers have found the Internet to be a useful tool in the research and purchase of goods and services. Corporations have found that, while the Internet is challenging traditional business models, it also offers significant advantages to companies that fully embrace the medium.
4.2 Market Trends
By any measure, the Internet is one of the fastest-growing commercial phenomena ever witnessed by society. Host computers, or servers, have exploded from 3.2 million in 1994 to roughly 56.2 million as of July 1999. During the same time period, the number of websites roared to more than 5 million from only 3,000.
A key factor in the recent growth of the Internet is the popularity of the sub-$1,000 PC. Rapidly falling component prices have allowed PC manufacturers to pass cost savings on to their customers, resulting in a more attractively priced product. Computers sold at or below the $1,000 level have appealed to first-time PC users and lower income families. Because of the more affordable prices, PC penetration in the United States is now approximately 50%, according to Dataquest, a market research firm based in San Jose, California.
As a result of the Internet's historical roots in the U.S. Department of Defense, as well as the rising penetration of PCs, the United States accounts for more than half of the world's total Internet users. The European market, by contrast, has been held back by the high cost of Internet access. Consumers are typically billed twice in these markets, once by the ISP and once by the phone company. However, the forces of telecommunications deregulation in Europe finally appear to be having an effect, as several phone companies have recently eliminated access fees and now bill only on a per-minute basis. Such moves should eventually increase the penetration of the Internet in Europe.
In the United States, less than one-third of the population is connected, leaving plenty of room for growth. In 1996, people asked colleagues and friends if they had an electronic mail address. In 1997, people were asked what their electronic mail address was. When consumers today are asked why they purchased a personal computer, the most common answer is to connect to the Internet to get their email.
4.3 Market Growth
Bandwidth bottlenecks frustrate consumers...
Today's telecommunications network infrastructure was not designed for the booming traffic created by Internet use. Ordinary telephone lines are optimized for short conversations, whereas Internet users typically stay online for ours at a time. Growing corporate use of the Internet to communicate with suppliers and customers has put additional strains on the system.
Adding to the capacity problem are the use of multimedia attachments to email, more complex multimedia websites, larger files being downloaded by users, and other bandwidth-hungry applications. Although the predicted global meltdown of the Internet has not come to pass, delays in navigating the Web and in receiving email continue to plague the industry and frustrate users.
...But solutions are on the way
The vast majority of Internet users use dial-up modems to access the Internet through their ISPs. As a result of the capacity constraints inherent in using analog modem technology over copper wires, 56 kilobits per second is the maximum capacity available today for most residential customers.
New technologies, such as cable modems and digital subscriber line (DSL) systems, promise a quantum leap in bandwidth: up to 30 megabytes per second (Mbps) and 12 Mbps, respectively. Both technologies also offer an added advantage in that they are always "on": a consumer need not physically dial into an ISP to access the Internet.
Cable modems. The nascent market for cable modems is beginning to exhibit strong growth. The number of cable Internet service subscribers numbered more than 1 million as of July 1999, up from 500,000 in 1998.
The current leaders in this burgeoning market are Excite@Home and RoadRunner, North America's No. 1 and No. 2 cable modem services, respectively. RoadRunner is provided by ServiceCo LLC-a joint venture, led by time Warner Inc. that includes MediaOne Group, Inc., Microsoft Corporation, Compaq Corporation, and Advance/Newhouse Partnership, a private firm.
Digital subscriber lines. These systems allow telephone companies to offer faster service over copper wires by reducing signal distortion. The number of DSL subscribers was approximately 20,000 in 1998.
The fastest form of DSL is asymmetric digital subscriber line, or ADSL, includes Ameritech Corporation, SBC Communications Inc., Bell Atlantic Corporation, U S. WEST Inc., Sprint Corporation, MCI World Com Inc., and GTE Corporation.
In contrast to cable modems, which have been deployed in select regions for a few years, consumer-oriented DSL service is only now being rolled out more aggressively. Cable companies have also resolved their standardization issues and have come further in preparing their networks for broadband than have the telcos.
While the number of DSL subscribers should exhibit strong growth in 1999, it appears that cable modems will still command the bulk of the broadband market. One reason is that cable modems have an inherent speed advantage. The consumer friendly version of ADSL, known as G.Lite, offers speeds of up to 1.5 Mbps, compared with top speeds of 30 Mbps for cable modems.
Aside from bandwidth constraints, another more serious problem has recently been brought to light, which threatens to forestall the previously explosive growth of the Internet. According to a study conducted by the Department of Commerce, significant disparities continue to exist between certain demographic groups and regions with regard to Internet access. For example, those households with incomes of $75,000 or higher are more than twenty times as likely to have Internet access than those at the lowest income level.
The presence of such disparities would seem to limit the potential growth of the Internet, and would likely impact many of the market forecasts discussed in the "Industry Profile" section of this report. However, both government and businesses are aware of the problem and are currently taking steps to close this so-called "digital divide." The U.S. government plans to use community centers to increase access to the Internet for all Americans. Meanwhile, many businesses also plan to help educate and train individuals who may otherwise be at a disadvantage in today's increasingly technological workplace.
Although the Internet is still evolving as a medium for communications and commerce, it has already had a substantial impact on both consumers and businesses. For consumers, the advent of online shopping has brought greater convenience, while businesses have enjoyed productivity gains.
4.4 Competition and Buying Patterns
Competitive threats come from the more established hosting companies with large amounts of operating capital. Their weaknesses are, however, even with strong brand awareness, they cannot afford to move their facilities. This ties them to their current locations, which lack adequate bandwidth, speed, and reliability due to their connections through local telco connectivity.
DSL. Web Services Provider's competitors include other XDSL resellers.
Hosting. Web Services Provider's competitors include online Web hosting companies.
Dedicated Server. Web Services Provider's competitors include companies providing single site Web servers for increased speed and reliability.
Co-location. Web Services Provider's competitors include Web hosting companies offering customer or vendor provided large server or servers housed in their facilities and usually managed over the Internet by the customer.