NAB to run Peakhour-powered ASP

According to Peakhour CEO David Harrington, the company will provide the back-end for a NAB-branded ASP offering to be launched in November. ASPs, or application service providers, rent access to applications, usually over the Net and via a Web browser. The NAB effort will target its customer base of around 350,000 SMEs.

Harrington argues that SMEs are the ideal target for ASP services, for they often lack the muscle to hire expensive IT talent and may have difficulty coming to terms with new technology.

"The aim is to supply a virtual CFO at a fraction of the cost of an expensive executive," Michael Liley, chief operating officer at O2-e, the division at NAB responsible for Internet initiatives. According to Liley, services on offer at launch will include online banking, accounting systems, customer relationship management and billing software. "It's only limited by our imagination," he claimed.

Customers will be able to sign on for the products that suit their business and have it all charged on a single bill. This will include Web services like e-mail and Web hosting, representatives from the companies said.

The $12 million investment will not only buy NAB the wholesale infrastructure to run the service, but also a equity stake in Peakhour and a board seat on the company. The size of the stake was not disclosed.

Peakhour was founded in June 1999 and took 14 months to develop its ASP infrastructure, Harrington said. The company currently has "humble forecasts", as the size and scope of the opportunity in ASP services is not yet clear. "We are confident in the strength of the market," he said, "and the SME market is really the sweet spot."

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