Table: An E-Business Road Map

WHAT'S NEXT:

DOT-COMS WILL LIVE

At least 25% of publicly held Internet companies are profitable--more than what bullish analysts had predicted. That, combined with low stock prices, could make them targets for bricks seeking more clicks.

FORGET THE FINANCIERS

Tech build-out is driven by users, not venture capitalists. Venture funding of Net startups fell 71% last year, while online business trade rose 73%.

CORPORATE WALLS WILL CRUMBLE

By using the Net to cut the cost of interacting with suppliers and partners, the lines between companies will blur.

MACHINES WILL DO THE TALKING

Before long, billions of sensors and millions of computers will use the Net to complete transactions with no human intervention.

E-BIZ WILL BE ALL BIZ

When companies started using the telephone, no one called it t-business. The Internet's growth may have prompted different treatment for a while. But now the Net is simply a tool for doing business.

WHAT TO DO:

THROTTLE THE CORPORATE BORDER PATROL

To tap the Net's potential for distributing decision-making, companies must flatten hierarchies. Online marketplace eBay (EBAY ) has customers help devise new features and police the site.

LISTEN TO THE WEIRDOS

After wacky new dot-com ideas failed, it's easy to think imagination is the enemy. But conventional wisdom yields conventional profits--or none at all.

CALL OFF THE LAWYERS

Using courts to stop music and video downloads, a la Disney (DIS ) and Sony (SNE ), is a loser's game. Instead, record companies should offer CD buyers extras.

SHARE THE NET'S POWER WITH THE PEOPLE

Especially with customers. Amazon.com (AMZN ) provides product reviews--even negative ones--by buyers. Result: Some 80% of its sales are from return clients.

FINISH THE INFO HIGHWAY

E-business may not require high-speed lines to every household--but they would help. Meanwhile, the industry needs to improve performance of existing networks.

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