By Baselinemag  |  Posted 2004-12-20 Email Print this article Print

Here's a look at the winning and losing technology projects of 2004. Toyota, Ameritrade and Wal-Mart are among the winners. Losers: Wal-Mart suppliers, Wells Fargo and Ford.


Increase in the number of Ameritrade accounts for the 12-month period ended Sept. 24.

Randy MacDonald, Ameritrade's chief financial officer, considers the online brokerage as much a software company as an investment intermediary.

For good reason. The company lives and dies by the online trading tools it provides investors.

Those tools include Streamer, an easy-to-use service that lets investors track their stocks on screen in real time; Advanced Analyzer, which allows clients to quickly build custom stock-performance charts; and Command Center, a dashboard for investors that presents portfolio positions and balances, six market indexes and a stream of selected quotes.

New to the mix is Amerivest, which the company launched in October. Amerivest is an advisory service that helps users put together long-term investment portfolios through surveys about goals and risk tolerance, and online recommendations.

The benefits from automated innovation are clear on the bottom line. In the year ended Sept. 24, the number of Ameritrade accounts increased 11 percent, to $3.5 million. Revenue increased 23.7 percent, to $921.9 million. And net income doubled, to $272.3 million.


Suppliers meeting Wal-Mart's radio-tagging requirements.

Throughout 2004, Wal-Mart's top suppliers have been scrambling to put radio frequency identification (RFID) tracking tags on pallets and cases of their goods, to meet the retailer's January 2005 deadline.

Wal-Mart's goal was to get its 100 largest suppliers to label products with RFID tags and ultimately reduce out-of-stock levels, keep a running tab of inventory and boost profits for all parties.

Following pilots in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, Wal-Mart says it has exceeded its initial goal, with 130 suppliers planning to ship RFID-tagged goods in January.

On Oct. 29, Wal-Mart announced that its RFID project has moved from the pilot to the implementation stage. Those 130 suppliers will start shipping RFID-tagged goods to the Dallas area, says Wal-Mart spokesman Gus Whitcomb.

As the year turns, Wal-Mart will also expand its RFID efforts from one distribution center to three, and from seven stores to 130. Most of these will be located in northern Texas; others will be in south-central Oklahoma.

So how is it that Wal-Mart is a winner, when it's not yet clear how this project will turn out? Wal-Mart has put RFID front and center in retailing. Target, Home Depot and Best Buy are now investigating how to use it. And Wal-Mart figures to benefit faster than the others, because it's pushing the hardest.

"It's a win for Wal-Mart," says AMR Research analyst Kara Romanow. "The reason everybody is spending on RFID is Wal-Mart."

Next Page: Losers


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