The Palm Beach Post from West Palm Beach, Florida on September 13, 1999 · Page 57
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September 13, 1999

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The Palm Beach Post from West Palm Beach, Florida · Page 57

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West Palm Beach, Florida
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Monday, September 13, 1999
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Page 57
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4 THE PALM BEACH POST SEPTEMBER 13, 1999 in? f " l Qf Q SITES TO BEHOLD Two South Florida companies check into Internet hotel business There's money to be made in the hotel business the Internet hotel business. At least two local companies think so privately held World minimi i lunula in aw anaii Tccn Xm. ..LLUHilNlJILJIUIUIM I I X ! RJlTOKC EpratA fn UaawM Technology calendar Thursday West Palm Beach Chamber of Commerce of the Palm Beaches will present "Internet 102 - Beginning Internet by Marcus P. Zillman, creatorfounder of BotSpot, 5:30 p.m., at the chamber board room, 401 N. Flagler Drive. $15, members; $20, nonmembers. For information, call 833-3711, Ext. 235. Boca Raton Greater Boca Raton Chamber of Commerce and the Chamber's Business Development Committee, every third Thursday, will present a technology seminar, noon, at the chamber, 1800 N. Dixie Highway. For information, call Troy McLellan at 391-3819. V Choice Travel of North Palm Beach and Visual Data Corp. of Pom-pano Beach. World Choice Travel has been publishing a guide on Florida hotels for four Youth Stephen Pounds INTERNET PUBLIC LIBRARY http:www. ipl. org The IPL claims to be the first public library for the Inter net community geared to finding, evaluating, selecting, organizing, describing, and creating quality information resources. Run by librarians, its more authoritative than most sites that claim to be one-stop sources of SUBMIT CORNER http:unvw.submitcorner. com If your Web site isn't in the top echelon of search en gines, your customer base won't be as thick as if you were listed in the upper realm of Yahoo!, Excite and those of their ilk. This site has compiled guides on indexing techniques, tips on what search engines look for, and advice on how to optimize your site to get the highest results in each search engine. WEB EX about an area and then mentions the area's lodgings. Chestler said Visual Data hopes to have 150 destinations by next year. It has 40 in production, Chestler said. The company makes its money from promotional partners and advertisers based on the number of visits by Internet surfers to videos on hotelview.com. But for now, to see the videos you must have a broadband phone line or a high-speed Internet connection. If you have a 56K modem, you'll get a slide-show instead of a video. It is most likely that visitors to the site are businesspeople who plan meetings for their companies. Visual Data's sales have grown to $1.9 million in 1998 from $190,000 in 1997, and its workforce has jumped to 37 from 18 people over the same period. But it's still not making a profit It lost $3.4 million last year. The Massachusetts-based firm Forrester Research estimates that online hotel bookings will reach $4.6 billion in the year 2000 and $10 billion by 2003. With that kind of market, USA Hotels Guide and Hotelview.com look like savvy business ventures. B ALL TALK: IBM launched a new version of its ViaVoice speech recognition software last week. Some new features include the ability to learn a person's vocabulary, accept multiple users, send and receive electronic mail and use voice commands to operate Internet browsers. The software was developed at IBM's Speech Systems Division in West Palm Beach. IBM introduced its ViaVoice Millenium program at $60. The Internet version, called ViaVoice Web Millenium, costs $80, and the ViaVoice Pro Millenium for businesses costs $179. All three are available at computer retail stores, although versions in other languages won't be ready for a few months. The company's Speech Systems Division employs 350 worldwide, with 150 in West Palm Beach. IBM holds about 60 percent of the global market in speech recognition software. It offers software in nine languages. B Stephen Pounds writes about technology. He can be reached at 8204412; or e-mail him at Poundspbpost.com. years at the Internet site www.flhotels.com. But last September, it launched a broader hotel site, usahotelguide.com, to offer information and reservations for hotels across the country. Since then, it has had more than a million visitors. It employs 20 people compared to seven early last year. It plans to have 35 to 38 employees by the end of 2000. This month, it will move into 4,000 square feet at 630 U.S. 1, Suite 200 in the North Cove Building in North Palm Beach. World Choice's revenue comes from a 10 percent commission on hotel room bookings made at its Web site. More than 3,000 reservations a month are made at the site, according to Chief Executive Greg Mcintosh. The company posted $234,000 in sales last year. This year, it projects more than $750,000. It will decide by the end of the year whether to have an initial public stock offering or combine with a public company, Mcintosh said. Last month, World Choice announced a series of improvements to its Web site. It now lists 30,000 hotels, adding bed and breakfasts and specialty hotels such as ski resorts to the chain hotels and motels that it already offers. Usahotelguide.com offers a checklist of each hotel's amenities and its rates as well pictures so that users of the Web site can form their own opinion of how a hotel looks, rather than depending on a travel agent's description. The Web site also has upgraded its technology. It now offers users the capability of realtime, online hotel reservations and of placing five potential hotel locations on a map to determine which is closer to your destination. Users also can create a "my hotel list," a kind-of favorite list of places they have stayed, so they won't have to conduct another search for the hotel. "We have consciously kept our site simple," Mcintosh said. "Now there are only three sites other than us that offer this type technology." Those sites are Microsoft Network's Expedia site (expedia.msn.com) , Previewtravel.com and Travelweb.com. B ROOM WITH A VIEW: One of USA Hotel Guide's partners is Pompano Beach-based Visual Data Corp. (Nasdaq: VDAT). Visual Data has a subsidiary, Hotelview.com, which runs short promotional videos of hotels, resorts and golf courses. The hotel or golf course offers a link between its Web site and Hotelview.com, where the customer can view the video. Or the link goes from a promotional partner of the hotel say a tour operator, a city's visitors bureau or, in this case, a hotel reservation Web site to videos of hotels produced by Visual Data. "We're here to help them, and they're here to help us," said Visual Data Vice President David Chestler said of USA Hotel Guide. "We want to make their Web site more attractive and in turn, we want them to inform their clients about our content We want more hotels to join," Chestler said. Business seems to be booming for Visual Data. It now has videos of 140 hotels, 250 golf course and four city destinations. In the latter, the company ( gives a two to four minute video http:www. webex. comwebexsite default, htm This is one of those, "Why didn't I think of that?" sites. As a free meeting center on the Web, WebEx can be used for private, multi-user meetings with colleagues and clients, without any pre-loaded software or network configuration required. HEALTH CARE Y2K GUIDE http:www.healthcarey2kguide.com Federal, state and local governments have been working with businesses, public service agencies, trade associations and consumer groups throughout the country to prevent or minimize problems that might occur in the health care sector because of the Year 2000, or Y2K, computer issue. This site addresses many questions consumers have about Y2K's possible impact on health care and offers consumers suggestions about what they can do to prepare. JEFF HOUCK Know of a useful business, real estate, travel or technology Web site that other readers might find helpful? E-mail the address and some basic information about the site to jeffliouckhotbot. com Access these sites and more of the Web's best at Palm Beach Interactive: www.GoPBI.com technology www.GoPSI.com

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