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Using the Internet to Increase Personal Computer Purchasing Effectiveness


Ian Norrish
Ian Norrish, Customer Service Manager, Ziff-Davis Inc. Cambridge MA 02142, 617-225-3230,

83rd Annual International Conference Proceedings - 1998 

Abstract. This presentation / workshop will discuss some of the many ways in which the Internet can be used to increase the Purchasing Managers' effectiveness in procuring Personal Computers and associated peripheral equipment and software. Some of the more common methods of using the Internet are discussed, but the primary focus is on the use of a new technological service, from a leader in the technical publishing industry, which offers an unbiased view, plus a wide range of available products from many of the industries computer vendors.

The presentation will be supported by a visual demonstration of the service, actually selecting a product from given specifications, based on reviews and recommendations from technical labs.

The latest developments and future enhancements to the service will be discussed, along with information on industry trends in the use of the Internet and on-line purchasing.

The Opportunity. The Internet has been labeled many things and lives up to most of them. However, it is a tremendous resource that can be tapped by both individuals, groups and companies to allow them to be more effective in their work and leisure time.

Objectives. My objective is to present you with an overall picture of the resources that currently exist on the Internet, specifically the World Wide Web, (WWW), then to show you how the use of a specific service, as an example, can make you more effective in purchasing computers and computer related equipment.

Why the Internet? The Internet is unparalleled as a worldwide source of information that is now being used by people and organizations in most countries of the world. It is filled with minutiae, junk, doctoral thesis, things you never needed or wanted to know, but also, it contains the valuable information and references you need on whatever is the topic of the moment . The wealth of information available is overwhelming unless a very selective search engine is used to filter the unwanted and provide the required. A measure of how far the Internet has come in usage was the fact that in a recent high profile child murder trial, the judge chose to announce his decision, along with his reasoning, on several web-sites within the USA.

Web Usage: Web users spend a significant amount of their computer time visiting the Web:

  • On average, they spend 6.6 hours per week on the Web, representing about 1/4 of the total time they spend on a computer
  • While at home, over half their time on computer is spent using the Web
  • Spend 5.1 hours per week at work on the Web
  • Over 70% of Web users use Web to obtain information about products or services
  • Approx. 18% have actually purchased products or services directly on the Web

Source: Ziff-Davis/Roper Starch Survey of WWW Users Q496 and Q197 findings

What Resources are Available?
Manufacturers & Vendors Web-sites: These vary in quality, but almost always provide a quick overview of the company, with links to products, press releases, customer service and support, special offers, site search facility, and in some cases listings of their associated distributors and partners. Most of the larger companies have registered their company name as their locator (URL) for example:,,, These sites are useful when you need specific company or product information from that particular manufacturer or vendor. Generally they are up to date and focus on new and most popular products and services.

Search Companies: (Such as Yahoo, Lycos, Excite, Altavista) By entering a "key word" or set of words, the search engine searches millions of documents and information, seeking to match the key word or phrase, then compiling a list of search results. The results can vary from thousands of "hits", or successful matches, to "no matches found". Many unscrupulous site managers/webmasters are entering commonly used words as "key words" associated with their sites, in order to be returned as a "search result", even though their site has no connection with the key words used.

Internet Shopping Malls: The Internet equivalent of the traditional "Shopping Mall", usually a varied collection of vendors, who pay a fee or commission to the mall manager for the rights to be linked to the collective site. Has value due to co-location when you need to walk to shop, and seek variety, but has little advantage over a single site where the shoppers' needs are known.

Alternative: While each of the above methods of gathering information can be useful, they are time consuming to use and can easily move from "web searching" to "web surfing", unless the terms used in the searches are very specific or the searcher has had success with previous approaches. The alternative method I would like to present to you is a commercial Internet site, built by Ziff-Davis Publishing, a company with a long and respected background in magazine publishing to the technical marketplace, (Computer Shopper, PC Magazine, ZD Computing, Internet Life) The site is titled "NetBuyer" ( and has been operational for almost two years. During that time the service has grown dramatically and has been tuned to meet the needs of both vendors and users. Product purchases via this direct channel exceed $2M per week.

What is NetBuyer? NetBuyer was built from expertise gained from Computer Shopper, the #1 magazine for people who purchase computer products "direct"-online or through mail order from manufacturers and resellers.

Our corporate parent is Ziff-Davis Publishing, publishers of PC Magazine, PC Week, MacWeek and other leading computing publications. We use these trusted and reliable resources so business buyers and consumers of computer products can find the best products for their needs on NetBuyer.

What can you find here on NetBuyer? Among the computer buying services on the Web, NetBuyer is unique in its functionality and the depth of information we provide. Here are the highlights:

  • the ability to search through thousands of available products from over 100 vendors.
  • the ability to create side-by-side product comparison charts with detailed specs and price.
  • special weekly offers from vendors and manufacturers on brand-name computer products.
  • the ability to link directly from a particular product listing to objective, reliable product reviews from PC Magazine, PC Week, PC Computing, MacWeek, MacUser, Windows Sources and Computer Shopper.
  • secure e-mail transactions allowing you to purchase directly from NetBuyer vendors; if you prefer, we give you company information so you can order by phone.
  • registration benefits that include personal alerts that let you know about the latest low price on products you are interested in and the ability to save your comparison information from session to session.
  • information to help you learn a vocabulary of computer terms with technical tips from NetBuyer editors.
  • technology buying guides from Computer Shopper.
  • weekly analysis of new products and technologies from NetBuyer's exclusive columnists.
  • buying assistants that help you identify the right products for you.
  • recommendations on ideal system configurations by top Ziff-Davis editors.
  • tips on buying direct from vendors and manufacturers, online and through mail order.

With NetBuyer, you can shop with the confidence of an informed buyer while you browse the largest marketplace of products online and connect with the vendors you want to purchase from.

How would NetBuyer Help me? NetBuyer has been built using advanced search technologies which turn complex searching into a relatively simple operation. Whether you know the exact specs of the product for which you are searching, or even if you only know the brand name, the search will quickly provide a list of products and the vendors who carry those products along with individual prices.

If your job requires that you locate products and a group of possible vendors in response to a purchase request from technical staff within your company, NetBuyer can save you a vast amount of time that you would otherwise spend to find the products through other alternative methods.

The table below is a summary of your assumed needs vs the NetBuyer result.

Assumed Needs NetBuyer Actions Needs Met?
select a product from a spec -product search -Yes, provided product exists
compare product from # vendors -search and compare -Yes
compare warranty terms by vendor -search and compare -Yes
locate specific product -text search -Yes
select a product based on reviews -text search/review search -Yes

The tables on the following pages list the current, (11/97),Vendors and Products represented on NetBuyer, an example of setting up a search, results from the search, an example of the Product detail, and an example of the links between typical Desktop products and the reviews that appear for those products.

NetBuyer has been built with the general needs of the Direct market buyer in mind, but it may be that you as a Purchasing Manager, have needs beyond what NetBuyer presently provides. We would be very interested in hearing of those additional needs and in providing system enhancements that would make NetBuyer even more useful to your profession. I have included a form in the handout material for you to complete and return to me and I assure you I will respond directly to your inputs.

Table 1.
Which Vendors & Products are Listed on NetBuyer?

  • Enpower Innovation
  • 4 U Technology, Inc.
  • A-File
  • A2Z Computers, Inc.
  • Aberdeen
  • ABS
  • Academics Solution/Hybrid
  • Zone
  • Access Micro Technology
  • Accubyte, Inc.
  • American Tech Enhanced
  • Computer
  • AMS
  • Anson / Multiwave
  • Technology
  • Aventec Direct
  • Axis Systems
  • Big City Express
  • California Computer Design
  • Cavistar
  • CDW
  • Comp America
  • Comp-u-America Inc
  • Comp-U-Plus
  • Compu-d
  • Comtrade
  • Corporate Raider
  • Crucial Technology
  • CyberMax
  • Datavision Computer Video
  • Delaware Computer Center
  • DirectWave
  • Dirt Cheap Drives
  • E.T. Technology
  • EDO Micro Technology
  • Enorex
  • Envisions
  • FutureCast
  • Gateway 2000
  • Hardware Street
  • Harmony Computers
  • Insight Direct
  • Intranet Warehouse
  • Legend Micro
  • McGlen Micro, Inc
  • .
  • MediaStore
  • Megatrends Technologies
  • Memory Express
  • Micro Pro, Inc.
  • Micro Time
  • Micro Trends, Inc.
  • Micro Warehouse, Inc.
  • Micro X
  • Micro X-Press
  • MicroMart
  • Micron
  • MicroShack Corp.
  • Microsource
  • MidWest Micro
  • Page Computer
  • Paragon Technology, Inc.
  • PC Importers
  • PC Mall
  • PC Progress
  • PC Zone
  • PCs Compleat
  • Pinnacle Computer
  • Resources
  • ProGen
  • ProStar Computer Inc.
  • Q.I. Technology, Inc.
  • Quality Inside USA
  • Quantex
  • Sager Midern Computer
  • Second Source Engineering
  • SnW Computers
  • Software Street
  • Spartan Technologies
  • TC Computers
  • Transmonde Technologies
  • Tri State Computer
  • Umax PC
  • Universal Computer
  • Distributing
  • USA Flex
  • Xxera Technologies, Inc.
  • Zenon Computer Systems Inc

Category List:

  • Books and manuals
  • Business card readers
  • Cables
  • Cases
  • CD-Recordable drives
  • CD-ROM drives
  • Computer/TV signal
  • converters
  • Controller boards
  • Desktop systems
  • Digital cameras
  • Disks and cartridges
  • DVD-ROM drives
  • Floppy drives
  • Gaming controls
  • Graphics/Video devices
  • Graphics tablets/Stylus pens
  • Hard drives
  • Hubs
  • Inkjet cartridges
  • ISDN Terminal Adapters
  • Keyboards
  • Memory
  • Mice/Trackballs/Touchpads
  • Microphones
  • Modems
  • Monitors
  • Motherboards
  • Multifunction devices
  • Multimedia kits
  • Network adapters
  • Network operating systems
  • Notebook bags
  • Numeric keypads
  • Office equipment
  • Optical drives
  • PDAs/Palmtops/HPCs
  • Portable systems
  • Power protection
  • Power supplies
  • Print servers
  • Printers
  • Printer paper/media
  • Processor chips
  • Processor upgrades
  • Removable drives
  • Scanners
  • Software
  • Sound cards
  • Speakers
  • Tape drives
  • Toner cartridges
  • Value Desktops
  • Value Portables
  • Video conferencing

(Table 2 is not available in text-only version of this article.)

Table 3
Product Detail example:

AST Advantage! 9406

$2,199. - The Advantage! 9406 is a 200 mHz Pentium MMX system that comes loaded with 64 MB of RAM and a 4000 MB hard drive.

Vendor    PC Zone

Manufacturer   AST

Product    Advantage! 9406

Description   The Advantage! 9406 is a 200 mHz Pentium MMX system that

    comes loaded with 64 MB of RAM and a 4000 MB hard drive.

Price    $2,199.00

Vendor SKU    P 423663

Computer type   PC


manufacturer   Intel   

Processor type   Pentium MMX

Processor speed (MHz)  200

RAM included (MB)  64

Hard drive size (MB)  4000

Monitor size (in.)  15.0

Video memory   2MB

Video system   EDO RAM, 3D accelerated video

Number of processors  1

L2 external cache

type     Pipelined Burst

Processor cache size  256K

Modem speed (K bps)  33.6

Modem type    Voice/Fax/Data

CD-ROM drive speed  16X

Speakers    Altec Lansing subwoofer and stereo speakers

Sound card    16-bit Sound Blaster-compatible 3D sound with Windows 95


Case type    Mini-tower or Mid-size case

Keyboard/mouse   104 key Windows 95 keyboard; High resolution mouse

Floppy drive   3.5" 1.44 MB

Ports    1 parallel; 1 ps/2 mouse; 2 serial

Operating system   Windows 95

Additional features/options   Microphone, infrared remote control, full-duplex      speakerphone

Warranty 1 year limited on-site

Copyright (c) ZDNet, a division of Ziff-Davis Inc. All rights reserved. NetBuyer is a trademark of Ziff-Davis Inc.

(Table 4 is not available in text-only version of this article.)

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