Microsoft Joins E-Commerce Market

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Microsoft Corp., Redmond, WA, has unveiled a series of new e-commerce services and technology, and the company hopes to bring a flood of companies to the world of Internet marketing.

"You don't have to be a big corporation with a well-known brand or a company with lots of available dollars to throw at e-commerce solutions," Microsoft chairman/CEO Bill Gates told a press briefing in San Francisco. He added that Microsoft can now accelerate the market and within a year get one million new businesses online.

The new products are just entering beta testing, and Gates said pilots will be available this summer. The technology marks an expansion of the company's Commerce Platform, a set of services and products that run the back-office portions of electronic businesses.

The BizTalk Server, a framework based on Extensible Markup Language, is designed to make it easier for e-businesses to integrate separate applications both inside the company and in other companies. Microsoft also introduced Small Business Commerce Services, which will help small companies build sites and promote their products. Microsoft Commerce Server, a future update to Site Server Commerce Edition version 3.0, is designed to help medium and large businesses build e-commerce sites.

In introducing the products, Microsoft brings itself into direct competition with several of the Internet's heavy hitters, said David Alschuler, vice president of e-business and enterprise applications at Aberdeen Group Inc., Boston. Companies providing merchant-enabling technology include many the telephone companies, most Internet service providers like America Online Inc. and computing giant IBM Corp.

The new products are not Microsoft's first in the e-commerce area. The company already makes a commerce server that is running on "thousands" of companies, including direct marketing giant Dell Computer Corp., Round Rock, TX, a Microsoft spokeswoman said. The software giant has indicated it plans to sell its new technology to businesses of all sizes.

"With the BizTalk initiative and the Microsoft Commerce Platform, our hope is that the e-commerce opportunity is opened up for everyone," said Rebekka Kumar, product manager of Microsoft's Site Server Commerce Edition.

The company named several firms that will market and support the technology. MasterCard International Inc. and financial and human resources software concern Clarus Corp., Suwanee, GA, will sell corporate purchasing technology based on the Microsoft Commerce Platform. And PeopleSoft Inc., Pleasanton, CA, a software company that makes applications for managing company operations across networks, will base its PeopleSoft Business Network on the platform.
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