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For at least a few years, the online services will retain uniqueness in terms of structure, context, back-end transactions, billing, customer service, marketing segmentation, technology innovation, and distribution. But even these advantages will fade over time.

Pricing pressures will be brutal. Consider that only a few years ago, CompuServe could charge $22.50 an hour for access at 9,600 baud. Today, it charges $4.80 while others charge as little as $1 for access at 14,400 baud. This trend will continue, which is great for the consumer, but ominous for the online services.

More than 50 percent of American households will be online. But many of them will use simpler access devices than today's computers.

Like most successful trends, all these changes will be driven by the competitive market.

And finally, if all this doesn't happen in the next 5 years, just remember what Mahatma Gandhi said: "There is more to life than increasing its speed."



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