I'd like to start this chapter by briefly looking at the impact the Internet is having on business. I will keep it short because I assume that, if you are reading Applied XML Solutions, you must be close to the revolution yourself.
However, at least two remarkable aspects exist when conducting business electronically . The first aspect is that location is less important.
Therefore, despite some thorny regulatory and cultural differences, a local company can act globally. My own business, Pineapplesoft, is active in Belgium, the U.S., France, the U.K., the Netherlands, and other countries from our base in Namur, Belgium. Most of our international business is conducted electronically.
Despite the physical distance, global organizations can become close to their customers by offering targeted advice, tips, or discounts . In my view, Amazon is a prime example of this.
Secondly, and most importantly, small businesses can compete effectively in that space. Internet access is so cheap no business can afford not to have it. Companies or individuals can have a Web site for a few dollars per month. And, thanks to easy-to-use editors, they don't need an HTML wizard either.
As their activities grow, small businesses can rent a shopping cart, again for a low monthly fee, from their ISP or from a large mall such as Amazon's zShop or Yahoo! Store. With credit authorization, searches, and quality ranking, these shops rank among the best offerings in e-commerce.
The openness to small businesses is fundamental because they are the foundation of our various economies, even though they seldom make it to the front page of magazines.
However, as explained in previous chapters, until recently e-commerce on the Internet was geared toward business-to-consumer (B2C) activities. Indeed, any business can open shop on Amazon, but having an Internet shop doesn't make sense when you're manufacturing windshields sold directly to automakers in Detroit!
The needs of business-to-business (B2B) e-commerce are different from those of B2C and are geared toward large-volume, more stable relationships, and a streamlined and more efficient procurement.
To put it simply, it is not effective for a car manufacturer to hire an army of Web surfers to click the online shops of its various suppliers. Instead, the manufacturer will look for a more integrated solution, ideally a product that integrates with its ERP solution. Ideally , it's the ERP package that does the clicking.
I call this "browsing on autopilot." Instead of asking a user to sit and click, the software simulates the clicking automatically. Obviously, the software must be capable of decoding the responses from the server, and the structure-centric XML is simply a better markup language for this application than presentation-centric HTML.