By James E. Powell
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At Once Download Store
Suppose you could go online to buy that utility you want-anytime,
with immediate registration. You might yet, thanks to another
try at creating a retail model for electronic commerce. The source
is Online Interactive, which plans electronic distribution of
applets in addition to traditional, large applications. The immediate
beneficiary, besides the consumer, will be smaller firms that
can share an expensive online infrastructure rather than compete
for shelf space.
Called atOnce, the service has already set up shop on the Microsoft
Network (in the Microsoft Mall) and the Internet
http://www.atoncesoftware.com/), and is about to make its way onto America
Online (in the Marketplace area). On the commercial services,
customers pay through regular billing channels; on the Internet,
atOnce uses Portland Software's ZipLock (News, March) to
directly dial a credit card agency.
The download launches an installation program, including a license
deal, then completes registration. You pay only when the download
is complete, and atOnce compares your billing address to what
you enter online to ensure security. There are other advantages,
too: The service remembers what you bought so you don't buy it
twice, and all documentation is in electronic format only.
Online sales also offers immediacy: OI had an NFL screen saver
with the Dallas Cowboys two hours after the Super Bowl. Among
its current fare, Windows screen savers and Microsoft Office add-on
products are particularly popular.
The company clearly has high hopes; according to one official,
it's shooting for sales of $30 million in three years. That may
sound optimistic, but OI's previous offering, The FreeShop Online,
has already brought in 1 million orders.