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Santa's Got A Brand New Bag On The Web

Bits & Bytes


LOOKING FOR THE PERFECT GIFT for your favorite cybernaut this holiday season? How about a virtual gift certificate? It's delivered via E-mail and is accepted by most online merchants.

Online gift certificates aren't new. They've been available for some time, but typically they're only good at the site where they've been, for example. Now, C/Base Inc. of Conshohocken, Pa., has set up to offer gift certificates in any denomination for use nearly anywhere on the Web. The company charges $5 for certificates under $100 and $7 for any amount above that. How does it work? Go to C/Base's Web site and fill out a form specifying the amount, the name of the person receiving the gift, and a personal message. Pay by credit card, and an E-mail message is sent with a claim code and a link to the C/Base site--where the certificate can be accessed, good for one year.

One place cybershoppers might want to use a Web certificate is at www. The online music superstore is letting customers make their own holiday CD from a library of 150 holiday tunes. Listen to the songs and then select 15 for your personal CD. You can make your own label, and Music Boulevard will deliver the disk within two days for $15.95. Jingle bells. EDITED BY IRA SAGERReturn to top


SCORE ONE FOR THE FINNS. Finland's Nokia Corp. now has the lion's share of the U.S. market for digital wireless phones, says market researcher Dataquest Inc. Nokia doubled its share, to 40.3%, during the first three quarters of 1998, up from 19.8% in the year-earlier period. Those gains came at the expense of Ericsson and Qualcomm Inc., which both saw their share halved, moving them down a notch to Nos. 2 and 4, respectively.

It's not all bad news for U.S. wireless-phone makers, though. Motorola Inc., the longtime industry leader that stumbled badly in the digital market and is now the industry's No.3 player, recovered modestly by capturing 11.5% of the market, compared with 6.3% in the same period in 1997.

Why are Nokia and Motorola up and the others down? Unlike Ericsson and Qualcomm, both have been buoyed by key phone introductions in the past year as well as their ability to offer phones that work with all three of the digital wireless standards in the U.S. "Since the big boys have shown up in the market, they've been able to take share," says analyst Matt Hoffman of Dataquest. EDITED BY IRA SAGERReturn to top


Winning in Wireless

U.S. market share through the first three quarters

COMPANY 1997 1998

NOKIA 19.8% 40.3%

ERICSSON 41.3 20.6

MOTOROLA 6.3 11.5

QUALCOMM 17.4 8.2

SONY 6.8 7.1


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SURE, EVERY COMPANY WANTS TO USE TECHNOLOGY to the fullest. But how important is it to install and maintain it yourself? Not very important, say the founders of Critical Path Inc., an 11-month-old startup in San Francisco.

What does Critical Path do? E-mail. The company is at the forefront of the trend to outsource specific Internet services. Its data centers process the exchange of electronic mail for about 180 companies, taking the task--and the headache--away from their clients' information technology staffs. Chief Executive Officer David Hayden says that by concentrating solely on E-mail, the company can offer its clients improved reliability and security while leaving E-mail providers their brand on the service.

Hayden says Critical Path is planning to offer certified delivery notices. One example is a deal the company is working on with the online brokerage E*Trade Securities Inc. to send customers E-mail confirmations of trades starting next year, eliminating the need to make snail-mail confirmations. Critical Path, which makes money based on the number of E-mail addresses it handles, expects to be profitable next year. EDITED BY IRA SAGERReturn to top

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