Microsoft unveils e-commerce strategy for Australia

Microsoft Australia today unveiled a series of e-commerce initiatives for the Australian market, part of the software giant's "evolving e-commerce vision to help businesses of all sizes quickly and cost-effectively build Web sites, promote their products and services to qualified customers, and revolutionise trading relationships with partners," said managing director Eugenio Beaufrand.

Harvey Sanchez, Microsoft Australia's senior marketing manager, Internet technologies, summarised the new strategy as "the three Ps": platform, portal and partners. According to Sanchez, 65 per cent of Australian e-commerce-enabled sites are currently using Windows NT and Internet Information server, and the product range will be extended later this year to include Commerce Server (an update to Site Server Commerce Edition v3.0) and BizTalk, an XML-based language to faciliate business-to-business collaboration.

Commerce Server is intended to simplify the deployment of e-commerce sites in both the business-to-consumer and business-to-business marketplaces. The new product will offer real-time marketing capabilities and sophisticated business analysis tools. A beta version of Commerce Server is due for release in Q4 1999.

BizTalk will give businesses the ability to exchange data between multiple applications. The language will be based on XML (extensible markup language) and should therefore allow businesses to exchange information regardless of platform and operating system.

Acknowledging the difficulties faced by small businesses looking for e-commerce solutions, Microsoft will offer Small Business Commerce Services, a wizard-driven site-building tool that will allow small businesses to set up e-commerce-enabled sites using a Web browser.

Microsoft recognises that its software products alone cannot provide a complete e-commerce solution, so the second of the "three Ps" - portal - highlights the importance of Ninemsn, the company's joint venture with Publishing and Broadcasting Ltd (PBL). According to Ninemsn's technical director, Frank Arrigo, the portal is already the number one site in Australia in terms of users and traffic. Arrigo claims 100 million page impressions per month, with 40 per cent of these going direct to content sites. A new "open marketplace" strategy for Ninemsn will, the company hopes, create "the ultimate shopping environment" for the consumer, and allow businesses to promote their products and services to a huge online market.

Microsoft cited partnerships as the third key element in its e-commerce strategy. Current e-commerce partners include enterprise applications software company PeopleSoft, network integrators Com Tech Communications, Internet solutions provider Zivo and the Web hosting company WebCentral.

For more information about Microsoft Australia's e-commerce initiatives, visit http://www.microsoft.com/australia/commerce.

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Neville Clarkson

PC World

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