Harvey Seegers

President and CEO, GE Global eXchange Services

Just as traditional brick-and-mortar giants like Wal-Mart Stores, Kmart and Target overtook dot-com e-tailers, business-to-business companies have to watch what their own Old Economy counterparts will do in the market space they share on the Web.

General Electric, the largest company in the world by market capitalization, is one of those competitors, and the man in charge of Global eXchange Services, its online B2B services division, is Harvey Seegers. Hes clearly playing offense right now.

"We have the worlds largest trading community and our competitors are building them from relative scratch," says Seegers, who expects GE customers will do "several million" transactions on its network this year.

GEs former electronic data interchange unit was reorganized last year to start an Internet-based trading system called Express Marketplace. GE has only 10 customers from its beta testing, but Seegers sees the proportion shifting from EDI to Web-enabled business. The only question is how fast.

Thats a big question for all e-marketplace builders like Ariba, Commerce One, Oracle and Microsoft. How GE does could indicate whether the technology companies can rule the market or whether the experience of older companies will win out. Analysts dont believe anyone has a clear advantage yet, but see GE as a strong contender.

Seegers believes GE will have impact beyond transaction-based marketplaces, as e-commerce spreads into design, logistics, marketing and production. "Were not just an e-procurement application," Seegers says.