Microsoft Expands E-Commerce Investment

In a move that some industry analysts have called an attempt to play catch-up in the expansive e-commerce game, Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) recently announced that it would quintuple the staff of its e-commerce unit, focusing on small to mid-sized companies looking for an online presence.

Possibly over-shadowed, but by no means eclipsed by recent IBM activity to move on the same market, Microsoft’s e-commerce unit — which is a part of its reorganized consumer and commerce division — will have 500 employees, and a clearly defined agenda.

According to Microsoft spokesperson Dan Leach, Microsoft is focusing its e-commerce efforts in four areas: providing access to the Internet; hosting Web sites for small businesses; gaining distribution for its network Web Sites; and selling Windows and other software as a platform for e-commerce offerings.

The Second Generation of E-Commerce?

Martin Marshall of Zona Research commented that Microsoft’s move signals a second generation of e-commerce that is helping to make related solutions more accessible financially, particularly to smaller companies. Microsoft revealed its e-commerce master scheme in March of this year.

Half of the newly announced e-commerce unit personnel will be based overseas, where Microsoft has not been idle. According to the company, they’ve launched major e-commerce operations recently in both Australia and the larger Asia-Pacific markets.

Industry analyst Vernon Keenan noted, however, that while Microsoft is “desperately trying to be a part of enterprise e-commerce solutions,” “they’re not there yet,” as disclosed in a Newsbytes interview.

Microsoft, WebCenter & a Sage

Acuity Corp. announced last week that they have joined Microsoft’s E-Commerce Alliance program, integrating the company’s WebCenter with the Microsoft’s Server Commerce edition platform.

WebCenter offers automated e-mail management, knowledge management, open integration points to customer information and telephony applications.

Sage Software, Inc. offered a preview of the marriage of technology from Acuity and Microsoft at their Visions 99 conference. Working with the Acuity 4.0 Distribution Suite and Microsoft’s Site Server 3.0 Commerce Edition, Sage demonstrated live online e-commerce transactions posted directly to Acuity.

The intention behind integrating the companies’ technology is to enable online businesses to leverage the expanding spectrum of business-to-business and business-to-consumer e-commerce solutions. Prima Publishing and TechniEdge Financial joined in the integrated e-commerce solution’s development that isscheduled for live implementation in July.

In Other E-Commerce News From Redmond

RMI.NET, Inc. (Nasdaq: RMII, RMIIW) announced last week that they will collaborate on a “Complete Commerce program,” providing e-commerce solutions for smaller companies. RMI will contribute custom design work, hosting, integration and other related services in conjunction not only with Microsoft and its Site Server Commerce Edition, but additionally with Compaq hardware and Intel processors.

According to RMI.NET’s chairman and CEO, Douglas H. Hanson, “this is a great opportunity for RMI to work with Microsoft to address the Internet commerce needs of medium-sized businesses.”

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