BUSINESSWEEK ONLINE : NOVEMBER 15, 1999 ISSUE
TECH BUYING GUIDE -- INTERNET SERVICES

There's No Place Like Home--for Web Helpers


E-services aren't just for overwrought wage slaves who are aiming to save time and eliminate hassles at the office or on the road. They're also for overwrought wage slaves--and their spouses--who are trying to save time or enrich their lives at home. Want to arrange a party without lifting the phone or pay all of your bills online? Hankering to see photos of your brand new grandchild? Now, you can find all of that on the Web.

Electronic bill-paying looks like the most appealing of the new consumer e-services. A handful of Web sites, including Yahoo!, MSN, StatusFactory.com, and Quicken.com are offering single sites where you can pay all or many of your bills. The first 100% bill payment service is statusfactory.com. All of your bills are mailed directly to the parent company, CyberBills Inc. It scans them into computers for viewing on the site. Once you approve, you click to pay that bill. The cost to you: $3.50 per month for five bills and $8.95 for up to 30.

Here's a money-management idea that should appeal to the harried parents of hip-hopping teenagers. It's a credit card that puts spending handcuffs on your kids. One such service, PocketCard.com, issues Visa cards for $15 a year for consumers that you can hand out to your teenagers and stock with money via the company's Web site.

Looking for a really effective fitness program that you can pack into your spare moments? FitLinxx Inc. has a computerized system that lets you keep up to date on your training progress. At your gym you sign in at a computer kiosk and set up your goals and regimen. Later, at home, you can log on to the FitLinxx.com Web site to check on your progress or e-mail your trainer. For Holly March, 43, of New Canaan, Conn., it has been a powerful motivator. ''Since January, I've lifted over 2 million pounds,'' she says proudly.

Another nifty Web service is party planning for busy people who barely have time to catch their breath--but don't want to sacrifice their social life. Check out Evite.com, which lets you send e-mail invitations from the site, sets up an event Web page for yourself and your friends, and tallies RSVPs. A cool feature: People get to select what food or drinks they'll bring from a list that you create. As each item is claimed, it disappears from the list. You won't get 10 bottles of cheap wine.

Other sites knit groups of people together on a regular basis. Yahoo!, NeoPlanet.com, and Visto.com, for instance, have free clubs for families or groups of friends who can chat, post their latest photographs, and plan birthday parties or Christmas gift exchanges.

For total media immersion, though, nothing matches My Life from Life.com Inc. It's a $69.95 software package that you buy at the store. Use it to create multimedia biographies--including text, voice recordings, photos, and video--that you can post on the Life.com Web site. Your bio becomes a perpetual work-in-progress that can put you in close touch via the Web not only with with yourself but with your family and friends. Now, that could turn out to be the ultimate e-service.

By Steve Hamm

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