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Tomorrow's commodities - on sale today

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Where will the Web get to next? Almost everywhere, judging by a recent construction IT exhibition. At least threequarters of exhibitors were making some Internet proposition. It wasn't just new companies with the new ideas applying for building permissions, and receiving them, online. Or the obvious ones, such as information service providers.

The more traditional software suppliers from CAD and visual presentation to business management and accounting are opening their systems to the Web. This may be opening them to information from other systems, or for work sharing or mobile working, or to offer combined services with complementary software vendors.

This was the annual AEC show in Washington DC. But is such pervasiveness of the Web more than 12 months away in the UK?

Another marker of change is that only a few years ago such IT shows were dominated by CAD and rendering. Today these are outnumbered by those selling project information management systems and the beginnings of building materials and components purchasing on the web. Some of the key CAD players are involved in these too, making computer models available to be shared by the project team, or trying to make the CAD desktop the focus for all information gathering.

Where is this heading? Difficult to say, but recent history may tell us something. Ten years ago 2DCADwas becoming a commodity. That is, prices and capabilities were becoming very similar and price competition caused the disappearance of some of the weaker CAD businesses. During the past five years this has happened in CAD generally. It will happen on the Web, too, project information management looks to be going this way already.

Beware of hitching your wagon to something that is ahead of the game today unless it is built on information or capabilities that others cannot readily replicate.

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