Marketer: Embassy Suites
What's there: A directory that lets you search by city, state and individual hotel and offers information on local attractions, restaurants and businesses. You can view a typical room and hotel atrium. There are also direct links to sister chains Homewood Suites and Hampton Inn.
Comments: The directory is pretty neat, but there isn't much else here. An area allowing user feedback was still under construction, while another area offering "Latest News Updates" hadn't been updated in three months.
Marketer: Hilton Hotels Corp.
What's there: Not much yet; this one's still incomplete. There's information on Hilton's BounceBack Weekend promotion and some phone numbers to make reservations.
Comments: Right now this area's main feature is a digitized print ad that takes a long time to download. Revisit the site in a month or so.
Marketer: Hyatt Hotels Corp.
What's there: Extensive details about Hyatt resorts, including pictures of properties and information on rooms, restaurants and amenities. Part of the TravelWeb area that hopes to serve as a clearinghouse for hotel data and, eventually, reservations.
Comments: Not as pretty as a brochure, and the information is limited. The inability to make reservations is a drawback TravelWeb says it hopes to fix soon.
What's there: Lots of audio and video clips and photos from various studio releases. There's an "assistance center" where users can download the software needed to view and hear the samples. Users can play along with a game that lets them be part of a movie, or they can stick to reading star bios.
Comments: The content is entertaining and the graphics are pretty snazzy. Some related areas offer less than meets the eye. A connection to Winterland Productions promises you can "order [T-shirts] online" but leads to a phone number.
Marketer: Viacom/Paramount Pictures
What's there: The site promotes Paramount's "Star Trek: Generations" film. Users can read about the movie, download an interactive press kit and purchase "Star Trek"-theme merchandise, including pins, calendars, videos and CD-ROMs, albeit only via an 800-number.
Comments: Paramount offers downloadable viewing software for users who would otherwise have been limited to accessing the site via a text-only interface. Those who complete an online survey get a digital poster image.
Marketer: Bank of America
What's there: Another work in progress, the area features an original holiday poem (still there as of Jan. 3), information about the CommerceNet consortium that Bank of America belongs to, employment opportunities, press releases and an automated teller machine locator.
Comments: The lighthearted poem makes the bank accessible. But we couldn't find a way to contact Bank of America via e-mail, and that's a big drawback. The ATM locator is interesting, but needs to be less time-consuming.
Marketer: Visa International
What's there: This area offers descriptions and pictures of Visa cards as well as details about upcoming service enhancements and what to do if you lose your card.
Comments: What's really needed is a way to contact the company online. We couldn't find one. An upcoming area will offer downloadable financial planning software, a neat-and valuable-service.
Marketer: Microsoft Corp.
What's there: This area features 10 to 15 clickable icons including employment opportunities, Windows news and sales and developer information. There are also white papers and press releases on products including the Microsoft Network and copies of Bill Gates' speeches.
Comments: The area immediately ties in with Microsoft's consumer marketing campaign by using the "Where do you want to go today" tagline. Overall, graphics are catchy, but the material is sometimes old; in the Windows section, the most recent press release was three months old.
Marketer: IBM Corp.
What's there: This home page reads a lot like an online magazine. The December issue (still available as of Jan. 3) prominently features an article on IBM halting shipment of Pentium-based personal computers. There also are other articles on IBM products and Internet initiatives as well as press releases and product information.
Comments: Ever wanted to hear IBM Chairman Lou Gerstner speak? Download an audio welcome from him, a unique feature among the Web sites we surveyed. Excellent graphics and deep technical data make this site a keeper for IBM enthusiasts.
Marketer: Apple Computer
What's there: This site is less of a marketing tool than a support facility for Apple owners. There are phone numbers for technical assistance, information on the latest software and a survey/feedback page users can e-mail to Apple. Apple claims it updates the site daily.
Comments: We wish there was more general information on Apple here, although the technical data run quite deep. The area does get a nice human touch from Apple employees who've designed their own home pages, however. We especially like John Hovan's homage to airplanes.
Marketer: Volvo Cars North America
What's there: Information and pictures of 1995 models; detailed safety information; map and listing of North American Volvo dealers with addresses and phone numbers; how to order a car and pick it up in Europe; e-mail; optional questionnaire.
Comments: Deep, detailed information presented in an engaging, friendly and readable way. The option to enlarge car photos is a nice plus.
Marketer: Electronic Car Showroom, featuring Ford Motor Co.'s Lincoln-Mercury division and Toyota Motor Sales USA
Address: Access through Electronic Newsstand, http://www.enews.com
What's there: Strictly informational. Text-only data on Lincoln-Mercury and Toyota models, corporate e-mail addresses, warranty information. Toyota section carries short articles about safety as well as detailed annual report-type data.
Comments: Lack of graphics a major drawback. No hypertext links, no way to locate dealers. Just dry stats on two automobile companies. Not a fun way to shop for a car.
Marketer: J.C. Penney Co.
What's there: Seasonal-theme area featuring holiday merchandise. Excerpts from the catalog, including a special Internet promotion offering the hard-to-find white Mighty Morphin Power Ranger. Details on the Penney philosophy; employment opportunities area under construction.
Comments: Offering Internet users a special deal on merchandise is a good way to gauge interest. You can also e-mail any J.C. Penney employee-provided you know his or her full name.
Marketer: Marshall Field & Co.
What's there: Part of the Shopping2000 collection of online catalogs. There are pictures and information about Field's gift selection, including Frango chocolates, crystal, etc. An 800-number is provided for ordering.
Comments: Inability to order online is a big drawback. The pictures aren't as clear as in a catalog and the images take longer to appear than turning a page. Until online ordering is available, we'd vote for the print version.
What's there: Extensive list of floral arrangements, grouped thematically. Pictures and pricing information.
Comments: There are more flowers here than the Rose Bowl parade. But as with other Shopping2000 participants, an 800-number is necessary to place an order.
Marketer: Florists Transworld Delivery Service
What's there: Part of the Shopping2000 online catalog collection. Pictures and descriptions of a few dozen flower arrangements, 800-number for ordering.
Comments: Selection is small compared with other florists online. And as with other Shopping2000 participants, the inability to order online hurts this area.