At this stage of the game, the business market for interactive media is much more advanced-and much less hyped-than the consumer market.
Many experts say interactivity must take root in a business setting before it will succeed in a mass consumer market. Compare it to the computer market. Computers have been a business tool for much longer than they have been a consumer tool.
Fittingly, many of the business uses of interactive media center on computers. Online services are popping up all over, offering direct links between buyers and sellers of computer-related and other technical products.
Some services, such as CommerceNet, use the Internet. Other companies, including International Data Group, will establish their own services.
Videoconferencing is also growing as a business tool, with companies like AT&T and Intel marketing videoconference systems that attach to desktop computers.
In the field, sales people are taking multimedia computers on calls, using CD-ROMs to customize presentations for particular clients. CD-ROMs are also being used as employee training tools.
Computers and TV programming are even coming together, as evidenced by the recent announcement that Intel Corp. and Cable News Network would work together to bring CNN telecasts to computer users. Business people who need constant access to news could call up CNN on a portion of their computer screen.
Interactive TV may be only a far-off dream for most consumers, but it's already being used in businesses. Whittle Communications' Medical News Network offers a satellite-delivered interactive news service for doctors. Several major drug marketers sponsor the service, running ads that let doctors get more information, order samples or access patient tracking materials.
Other companies-especially those with far-flung operations-use in-house interactive TV systems to conduct employee meetings and offer training.