Gartner: There's life for B-to-C e-commerce beyond PCs

By 2005, 10.1 percent of all U.S. business-to-consumer (B-to-C) e-commerce transactions will be made on devices other than a PC, such as mobile phones and televisions, accounting for US$22.9 billion in sales, according to study published Wednesday by Gartner Inc.

Gartner projects that by the end of this year, products and services from B-to-C transactions in the U.S. will generate $61.8 billion in revenue, and grow to $227.7 billion in 2005, the study said.

PC-based B-to-C e-commerce will ring in at $61.7 billion this year, while non-PC B-to-C e-commerce -- primarily television-based -- is expected to total $107 million, Gartner said. And while most B-to-C e-commerce will continue to be conducted over a PC over the next four years, by 2005 42 percent of U.S. consumers will use multiple platforms to make transactions on a regular basis, the study said.

Consumers will use different devices to purchase different types of products and services, Gartner predicts. For example, it forecasts that mobile devices will be used for buying access to things such as public transportation, movies and concerts, which may be time-sensitive or location-specific items. Interactive TVs will be used to purchase things advertised on TV, the study said.

But due to delays in the availability of Internet-capable TV set-top boxes, interactive TV will not begin to be widely used until 2005, Gartner said.

Companies such as Microsoft Corp. have been experiencing some difficulty getting their interactive TV offerings off of the ground. On Monday, the company acknowledged that in its most recent setback, its trials have stalled in Europe. One of its partners, United Pan-Europe Communications NV (UPC), has put plans to use Microsoft TV software on hold. Other factors creating delays have been glitches in the development and production of set-top boxes, as well as the lack of a standard way for cable operators to create content, Microsoft has said.

But the Gartner study predicts that the potential profits of B-to-C e-commerce are just too tempting to ignore. By 2005, $13.4 billion worth of B-to-C e-commerce transactions will be done with a TV, $9.5 billion will be done through a mobile device, and $204.8 billion will be generated via PCs, Gartner said.

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