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Meanwhile AOL plays catch up with Compuserve

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A survey by Durlacher has claimed that the small and medium enterprise (SME) market is poised to adopt the Internet and electronic commerce wholeheartedly. Nick Gibson, an Internet analyst at the City based company, said that while SMEs are far more cautious than the corporate market in their approach to the Internet, the market is set to boom. He said that a survey of 1,042 UK businesses Durlacher commissioned in May of this year showed that Internet access penetration stands at 33 per cent for small companies, and at 54 per cent for medium sized enterprises. But by next May, said Gibson, that will grow to 46 per cent of small businesses and 67 per cent of medium sized businesses. The growth, according to Gibson, is dominated by an interest in email. Of the companies surveyed, 38 per cent said email was “very important” to their business, while 28 per cent thought email was “important”. Nearly 50 per cent of the group thought that the World Wide We was important to their businesses, with the majority of those who were connected putting some type of site up in the first three months. Most of those sites, however, are purely promotional presences, although a large proportion were hoping to generate direct sales. The survey also estimated the size of the dial up market in the UK. According to Durlacher, it has grown by 84 per cent over the last 12 months and over 640 per cent since September 1995. The number of accounts has reached over two million, with the base including around 865,000 business accounts and 1,155,000 residential accounts. The leading ISP in the UK is Compuserve, with a 20 per cent market share but only 0.2 per cent growth monthly, while AOL is number two at 385,000, with 16.3 per cent monthly growth. The Microsoft Network has 130,000 users, but is growing slowly at 1.5 per cent a month, while the company with the largest monthly growth figure is BT’s Line One, at 137.5 per cent but so far only with 35,000 users.

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