On Ashby Avenue in Berkeley, Calif., AuctionDrop.com offers a bricks-and-mortars store where you can bring your stuff, much like an old consignment shop, and the firm will peddle it on eBay and handle all of the shipping and collection.

The dream of the Internet as an end in itself has finally faded into the 1990s as smart companies blend clicks and bricks. For example, E-Loan began experimenting late last year with offline loan officers to deliver customers to its online mortgage platform.

In retailing, mainstream companies are offering ways to pick up your order at stores. Both Best Buy and Circuit City allow you to order online, then come to the store to pick up the merchandise.

The explosion of PDAs will certainly add to the marriage of clicks and bricks as consumers become even mobile with their computing – drive, browse and buy.

The real estate angle is obvious, though not completely developed. Online listings, maps, open houses and electronic offers will be integrated in the next several years in ways we can only imagine now.

We can also imagine bar-coded for-sale signs. Buyers and sellers will point to the sign with a laser scanner from the car and get an e-mail with house details, comparable sales and other nearby listings.


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