A long, long time ago (we're talking three, maybe four years), most consumers were labeled 'Newbies': helpless, web-illiterate, 28.8K-challenged surfers who would face a nervous breakdown just *discussing* the possibility of using their credit card to purchase a book or airline ticket online.

How things have changed! According to NUA, there are now 335 million global consumers who have been online more than 3 years. Nearly 120 million have more than 5 years of online experience. And it shows: the music industry fears extinction because of rampant file swapping, travel agents nervously eye Expedia, Lastminute.com and budget airlines who sell close to 90% of their tickets online, and chat & gaming sites steal hours and hours of weekly eyeballs from the TV networks amongst the teen crowd. To name just a tiny portion of behavior shifts taking place in B2C.

Our point? In a world where Newbies are turning into OLDBIES by the hundreds of millions, there is NO excuse for not having a state of the art website, world-class online customer service, or cutting edge ecommerce offerings. But above all, realise that these OLDBIES will not tolerate any online presence that is still partying like it's 1999.

Copy (not learn, it's too late to be in a 'learning phase' when it comes to the Net) the strategy of IT pioneers who, encouraged by the rise in the number of OLDBIES, roll out third-generation products like there never was a pre-web world:

Gateway computers have started selling PCs with two hard-drives, which is a blessing for multi-tasking OLDBIES who are likely to want to burn a CD while playing online games, or demand mass storage for their ever-expanding digital photography files.

Apple just introduced an instantly popular online music store which makes it easy and affordable to download songs for as little as 99 USD cents. More than a million songs were downloaded in its first week, and no, it wasn't all rap and boy-bands: baby-boomer OLDBIES happily loaded up (or rather, down) on Fleetwood Mac, the Eagles and Bob Dylan. Hey, they're online and can actually afford to download legal content!

Dell is contemplating changing its name from 'Dell Computers' to simply 'Dell', representing Dell's evolution from a computer hardware company to a supplier of technology products and services. What kind of services? Well, wireless email devices for one (a partnership with Good Technology), meaning the industry's 800 pound gorilla is going to actively promote wireless internet access anywhere/anytime: a smart move, as wireless is in fact the next big thing for OLDBIES who have become used to unlimited online access at home and in the office, and now want to connect while on the go.

Which is nicely linked to Intel's new campaign which is urging the world to 'unwire', touting its wireless Centrino chips to consumers and offices alike. OLDBIES don't want boring talk about fixed copper lines and limited hours dial-up plans. Maybe that's one of the reasons Cisco just announced a line of wireless phones that operate over Internet-based networks. Intended initially for employees in hospitals, factories and offices, B2C applications can't be too far away.

OLDBIES and tech companies are teaming up, and relentlessly pushing the boundaries of how, where and when business gets done. Quite sad (and costly!) if your company would be the only NEWBIE left on the block!