E-Commerce Gets a Boost from Rich Media

IBM Adds Java-Based Interactive Media to E-Commerce Servers and Announces Public Beta of Toolkit

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Somers, NY - 30 Sep 1998: ... IBM today announced the adoption of IBM HotMedia, its Java**-based rich media toolkit, by the industry's leading merchant servers, including IBM Net.Commerce*. In addition, the IBM HotMedia toolkit beta is now available for creative new media professionals to download free-of-charge at http://www.software.ibm.com/net.media.

IBM HotMedia Software for the Java Environment is a set of ultra-lightweight Java applets and a set of simple-to-use tools for content creators. IBM HotMedia makes it possible to enhance commercial Web sites with rich media, without burdening Internet users with lengthy data download times, and without any special server requirements. As a result, e-businesses will be able to easily incorporate rich media experiences into on-line catalogs and other e-business applications, such as on-line advertising and interactive Web presentations.

"The future of e-business depends on making the user experience as natural as possible - - media without excuses will be a necessity," said Armando Garcia, vice president, Internet media, IBM. "IBM HotMedia provides a more realistic, natural environment for Internet shoppers that will help drive sales through on-line storefronts and facilitate the buy decision. And Web content creators can now use this same technology to their advantage."

IBM HotMedia gives end-users an intuitive and efficient way to navigate through a variety of rich-media effects, including:

IBM HotMedia also provides powerful spatial and temporal hot links across all of these content types, as well as to other objects and Web sites. Using IBM HotMedia, content is assembled into one easy-to-use file, which is simple to add to standard Web servers and efficiently delivered through a browser. Also, to effectively deal with today's low-bandwidth connections to the Internet, IBM HotMedia content is "smart" and it retrieves applets just-in-time to deliver media progressively.

IBM HotMedia and Authoring Tools

The IBM HotMedia tools are simple to use and are designed to complement existing media-authoring tools. To facilitate seamless content creation, IBM HotMedia will be distributed with upcoming releases of Macromedia** Dreamweaver** and Director**. Additionally, IBM has created versions of HotMedia specifically for use as an Xtra** and Object in Dreamweaver.

"We're pleased to partner with IBM to advance our mission of adding life to the Web," said David Mendels, general manager of Macromedia's Web Publishing Division. "By supporting IBM HotMedia in future versions of Dreamweaver and Director, the leading tools for Internet multimedia and Web site development, we're further enabling rich media authoring for e-commerce and interactive advertising applications."

IBM HotMedia and Commerce Servers

In 4Q98, IBM HotMedia will be available with IBM Net.Commerce to further enrich the on-line shopping experience. Combining Net.Commerce's Product Comparison capability with IBM HotMedia creates a personalized shopping experience that presents the shopper with customized product selections that can be fully inspected, manipulated, and examined to facilitate the buy decision.

iCat**, INTERSHOP**, Interworld**, and OpenMarket** have indicated that they each plan to provide offerings that support IBM HotMedia, giving on-line merchants persuasive new ways to present their products. The IBM HotMedia toolkit is available for immediate use in commerce server software packages at http://www.software.ibm.com/net.media.

IBM Net.Commerce is part of the expanded IBM WebSphere* family of application servers and will assume WebSphere branding in 1999. As a result, current Net.Commerce customers will benefit from the broad range of functionality of the WebSphere family, which integrates the Web commerce, Web server, transaction processing and distributed component technologies from IBM.

IBM HotMedia Benefits

IBM HotMedia is a powerful rich media technology for the Web that fully harnesses the power of Java. The IBM HotMedia player is separated into tiny Java applets (typically less than 10 kilobytes in size), which are delivered to the user on an as-needed basis. This "smart content" technology allows IBM HotMedia files to determine which applets are needed on-the-fly. In this manner, an applet is only downloaded once, and then it remains in the browser for the duration of the session, which speeds playback of subsequent content. This effectively deals with today's typical low-bandwidth (28.8 Kbps) Internet connections, which have been one of the limiting factors in the wide use of rich media for e-commerce.

Since IBM HotMedia is delivered progressively, it is possible to send only the "tip of the iceberg" when a page containing an IBM HotMedia file is loaded. This is typically a lightweight static image, animated GIF, or scrolling image that is stored in the initial portion of the IBM HotMedia file. Should an end-user desire additional content, the click of a mouse enables additional content to begin playing.

This approach makes it possible for on-line shoppers to browse quickly through many pages of an IBM HotMedia-enhanced catalog with minimal download time, and spares the merchant's Web server the burden of serving content that is not of interest to the consumer. This approach also makes IBM HotMedia ideal for other applications, such as interactive advertising.

Live IBM HotMedia Customer Sites

During an initial pilot program many IBM customers added IBM HotMedia to their Web sites, including:


IBM is the world's largest information technology company, with 80 years of leadership in helping businesses innovate. IBM software offers the widest range of applications, middleware and operating systems for all types of computing platforms, allowing customers to take full advantage of the new era of e-business. The fastest way to get more information about IBM software is through the IBM software home page at: http://www.software.ibm.com. For more information about IBM HotMedia please visit: http://www.software.ibm.com/net.media Information on the WebSphere product line may be found at http://www.software.ibm.com/websphere.

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IBM HotMedia Testimonials

"Selling on-line will increasingly require merchandising that presents a complete and compelling view of the products being sold, and that means merchants will want to add high quality audio, video, images, and other rich media to their stores," said Craig Danuloff, president and CEO of iCat. "Those on-line stores that embrace these capabilities can expect site visitors to spend more time - and more money."

"Internet merchants strive for compelling product presentation and visualization as an integral part of their store solution," stated Petra Vorsteher, vice president of business development and strategic alliances at INTERSHOP Communications. "IBM's HotMedia technology provides the tools to leverage the power of electronic commerce by making products more accessible to shoppers with 3D, animation, audio and video. IBM HotMedia takes on-line catalogs to the next level."

"A powerful way to attract and retain customers is through effective product presentation and merchandising capabilities. IBM's Hot Media toolkit, coupled with InterWorld Commerce Exchange, provides a visually-rich shopping experience," Susan Fairty, vice president of marketing, InterWorld Corporation.

Open Market
"Rich media products will help drive the acceptance and success of e-commerce in the coming years," said Cliff Utstein, Open Market's director of commerce service provider marketing.

* Indicates trademark or registered trademark of International Business Machines Corporation.

** All product and brand names are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective owners.

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