Hold those olives...

It was inevitable, wasnít it? Pizza Hut, in conjunction with the Santa Cruz Operation have announced PizzaNet, a home delivery ordering system that uses the Internet. Commercial Internet providers hope that this pilot program becomes an example for other business users that are looking for a universal, high speed conduit for business transactions.

Ordering a pizza might seem like a trivial use for a global network and PizzaNet dismissed as more publicity seeking Infomation Highway hype. However, if you look at the order requirements in business terms, the demands are actually quite daunting -- coordinating communications across the country to get that pizza steaming hot to a customer in less than a half hour -- even human organ transplant transactions are not as time sensitive!

Successful completion of this pilot study will mean that any business or government agency needing to act locally and quickly on data entered remotely could consider the Internet as a primary candidate for providing those data services.

Initially, only Pizza Huts in the Santa Cruz, California area will be taking orders for home/office delivery via the Internet from 22 August. The results of the pilot will determine if PizzaNet can be extended across the United States and around the globe. Pizza Hut has 8500 outlets in the US and another 2500 stores in 87 countries around the world.

The pilot uses SCOís Global Access Internet bundle that includes NCSAís MOSAIC and networking components and a custom application developed by SCO Professional Services, SCOís inhouse development team.

"The Internet and SCO Global Access present us with an exciting opportunity for home delivery services to our customers," said Jon Payne, Pizza Hutís MIS director of POS development. "Someone had to do it first. We will use the pilot to gauge customer response to the new service and use the experience in integrating our business with the Internet."

To use PizzaNet, customers will need a Windows or UNIX PC or a Mac running the World Wide Web (WWW) browser software, such as MOSAIC. The WWW is a graphical, multimedia extension to the Internet that drastically lowers the level of computer literacy required to cruise the Information Highway.

Pizza Hut maintains its WWW server in Wichita Kansas at its headquarters but can reach any of its outlets with an electronic message on the Internet in less than a second. Customers enter their order information into a form displayed on their computer which is then transmitted to Pizza Hut headquarters. The order is then relayed over the Internet to the appropriate Pizza Hut restaurant.

"Itís a whole new environment," explained Payne. "Because of customer concerns about security, we wonít be taking orders debited to charge cards.

No money changes hands until the Pizza is handed over." Pizza Hut already runs its home delivery software on SCO servers at over 1000 restaurants, making the jump to Internet ordering easy.

There is very little new technology in PizzaNet, remarked Doug Michels, Chief Technical Officer for SCO. "The primary challenge was to create a graphical menu page that makes it easy and convenient for customers to order pizza." If you want to see the results of Pizza Hut's and SCOsí labours just URL http://www.pizzahut.com

If you are outside the Santa Cruz area, your order cannot be processed at this time, though.

So until such time as the UK franchise holder for Pizza Hut get its act together, and connect their outlets to more than just the Cardnet credit card swipe system, this is all we can offer you: a slice of "virtual" pizza from Jimís Cafť, which is one of the more eclectic conferences to be found on the CIX conferencing and messaging system. Enjoy...

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