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A company's customers can be like frustrated voyeurs: They know a lot of useful product information exists, but it lies behind a window just out of view. National Semiconductor Corp. is giving its customers Peeping Tom status by using the Internet to give them 24-hour access to its internal documents. By posting detailed descriptions for 30,000 products on its Web site -- giving the engineers the tools they need to find any part and allowing them to order sample chips over the 'net -- the company hopes to improve customer service and take the grunt work out of sales and support.
Eventually, all this ready access to information will boost sales, the company hopes. Customers are already downloading 10 times the number of documents they used to order in paper form and ordering 10 times as many sample chips as they used to, says Dawn Schulman, communications manager for the company's World Wide Web services. Actual sales results won't become apparent for another six to 12 months, when customers will have finished their designs and will be ready to order parts.
The Web site uses some innovative technologies, such as a Java search engine that can find a product based on tens of variables and custom software that extracts information from existing databases and automatically formats it in HTML. National Semiconductor has also designed the site to …