Company named pcOrder.com seeks to change the way PCs are sold Christy Jones knows it as Trilogy's Act II

July 15, 1996|By DALLAS MORNING NEWS

AUSTIN, Texas -- Christy Jones was an economics major at Stanford University five years ago when she became interested in young computer entrepreneurs, including Michael Dell, the Austin merchant prince who was then 26.

"I remember thinking he was so old," Jones said.

After graduating, Jones joined with some fellow Stanford students to start Trilogy Development Group, a fast-growing Austin business that makes software for automating how companies process their sales orders.

Now, the restless Jones is 26, and she's already preparing for Act Two. Trilogy is spinning off a division called pcOrder.com into an independent company with a mission no less ambitious than to change the way personal computers are sold.

"My life is very simple now," said Jones, the president of pcOrder.com. "I wake up and I go to work. I'm here most weekends."

Jones' urgency is typical of start-ups that depend on the mushrooming popularity of the Internet, which increasingly is seen as an avenue for a broad range of electronic commerce.

PcOrder.com helps potential PC buyers place their orders by computer over the Internet. The awkward company name is its corporate address on the World Wide Web.

The company seeks to speed and simplify the process of configuring, pricing and ordering computers and related equipment. It's modeled after the Sabre travel reservation network, now an industry standard, introduced by American Airlines for selling plane tickets.

The company maintains and updates a database of PC products. A customer looking to buy a computer using pcOrder.com's Web page would see a list of PC and microprocessor manufacturers, followed by favored memory, hard disk drive, CD-ROM and modem configurations.

For businesses that set up computer networks, configuring components that work together can be burdensome. Comparing prices can be time-consuming, while the customer waits for a sales representative to search through lengthy price lists. Before it began to order from pcOrder.com, Lewan & Associates, a Denver reseller of computer equipment, suffered the usual problems of inconsistent pricing and the accidental purchases of incompatible components.

The Colorado company has been able to leapfrog its competitors by using the pcOrder.com system, said Jim Arnold, executive vice president of Lewan.

And pcOrder.com seeks to take advantage of a number of

converging trends in the PC business.

Computer products are being replaced so quickly that speed is more critical to a manufacturer. Customization of PCs, such as those by direct-sales giant Dell Computer Corp., is becoming more important to buyers. Electronic commerce on the Internet is expected to be huge.

Meanwhile, the PC business is continuing to grow rapidly. By 1998, spending on PCs and related software in North America is expected to reach $68 billion, according to Dataquest Inc., the San Jose, Calif.-based market research firm.

PcOrder.com seeks a small percentage of each transaction it helps along. Revenue this year is expected to be about $12 million, but the company, with more than 40 employees, has its sights on $1 billion in sales, a figure analysts say could be reasonable.

"PcOrder.com has the potential to be a billion-dollar business with an entrenched, defensible position," said Neil Weintraut, an analyst at Hambrecht & Quist in San Francisco, which specializes in following technology companies.

"I think it'll have a pretty big impact," said Geoffrey Bock, an analyst at the Patricia Seybold Group in Boston.

Like legendary Netscape Communications Corp., pcOrder.com seeks to gain a competitive edge by building its share of the market as quickly as possible, then continuing to drive the technology forward, leaving rivals in the position of always trying to catch up.

And, like other Internet start-ups, the company is obsessed with becoming a major success. "We can't think too big," said Andy Palmer, vice president of sales and marketing at pcOrder.com. "This is a culture of high risk and high return."

It's also a culture of long hours, but that's been going on for a

while. While Jones was at Stanford, her parents in Santa Barbara, Calif., were displeased with her growing obsession with computers.

"I'd go to sleep at 4 a.m., and my dad, who's a doctor, would lecture me about messing up my biorhythms," she said. But the excitement from all of the Silicon Valley start-ups was infectious.

A classmate who first conceived Trilogy, Joe Liemandt, met Jones in an investment club. "Joe had his own database consulting company," she said. "I asked him for advice on how to get into the software industry. He said he was looking to start a software company."

Trilogy, with sales this year expected to top $120 million, has some major customers including Hewlett-Packard, Boeing, Silicon Graphics, Alcatel and others.

Trilogy will retain a majority interest in pcOrder.com after the spinoff. A public offering is being considered, Jones said, perhaps before the end of the year.

Pub Date: 7/15/96

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.