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Will the Internet Change the Way We Shop?

Venture capitalist Ann Winblad takes digital stock

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When it was first formed in 1989 to invest solely in software start-ups, the San Francisco-based venture-capital firm of Hummer Winblad Venture Partners was an anomaly. While it’s now hard to imagine a new VC fund that doesn’t include software or Internet companies, Hummer Winblad has helped start some of the better known: Berkeley Systems, Liquid Audio, Pets.com, and Biztravel.com. We asked founding partner Ann Winblad (right), 49, to give us a preview of e-holidays to come. — NR

EW: How will the Web change the way we shop?

AW: We don’t want you to think differently; we want you to think like you think. I happen to have a successful career, so I’m fairly price-insensitive. Time is my enemy—I want it, and I want it now. I do not want to have nine clicks to get a gift for my mother. If I don’t know what to get, I want to have sites that are likely to know what I want to buy. I’m a big shopper at Dean & DeLuca — I buy presents for my parents there -— and they have the Net Perceptions recommendation engine installed. They tell me, ”We know if you buy this cheese, you’d likely buy this.” Instead of me putting together a dorky gift basket, I get one that suits my parents.

EW: Will e-commerce impact entertainment?

AW: We really are just seeing the tip of the explosion in digital music. We’re seeing things like ReplayTV and TiVo, the digital VCRs, come out for the first time. Packaged programming, I think, is going to go away in the next five years. You won’t channel surf; you’ll program your entertainment device for what you want. Everyone will have a much more personalized entertainment environment.

EW: Who will be the big online winners?

AW: The question is going to be, Who are the first losers? Because no one’s lost yet. And I do think that we will have the first losers show up somewhere in the next five years.