Microsoft unveils e-commerce strategy

Microsoft has unveiled its electronic-commerce strategy, including three new products, new services and a bevy of partnerships with existing e-commerce powerhouses. Microsoft's goal -- aside from, obviously, boosting its own bottom line -- is to bring 1 million new businesses into the world of e-commerce within a year.

In a flurry of statements regarding the e-commerce event, Microsoft said that its strategy is to make it easier for companies and consumers to do business over the Internet.

"With these tools, our hope is that the e-commerce opportunity is opened up for everyone," Microsoft chairman and CEO Bill Gates said in the statement. "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. With low-cost, high-volume tools like these, we can accelerate the market and within a year get a million new businesses online."

Here's how Microsoft aims to achieve that goal:

-- Expansion of its commerce platform with three new software products and new service offerings. The company will release Microsoft Commerce Server as an update to its Site Server Commerce Edition version 3.0 to make it easier for medium-sized and large businesses to build "sophisticated" Web sites, according to a Microsoft statement.

The platform also will include a new Microsoft BizTalk Server with tools and services that help businesses share data more readily.

The third enhancement will be Small Business Commerce Services, helping small businesses to quickly create Web sites, promote their companies and sell goods online.

All three enhancements include support for BizTalk, a framework based on XML (extensible markup language) schemas and industry standards that will let companies integrate systems regardless of operating system, platform or technology. BizTalk support in the expanded commerce platform is supposed to allow tighter integration of promotional services on MSN, the Microsoft Network, so that companies have better access to customers, Microsoft said.

The company also announced the start of Microsoft Passport, which is designed to allow for faster, more secure consumer transactions online.

-- BizTalk is a focal point of Microsoft's announcement and is supposed to allow businesses to more easily share business data like purchasing documents and product catalogues and to coordinate promotions with online trading partners. Microsoft said it will work with customers, partners and industry groups to define schemas for BizTalk and to push the adoption of related industry standards.

Besides incorporating BizTalk schemas into its Commerce Platform and MSN, Microsoft also said it will add the schemas to future updates of its Office, BackOffice and Windows software programs.

In addition to those Microsoft announcements, the company said that various other businesses have endorsed the e-commerce and BizTalk strategies. And, MasterCard International and Clarus said they will cooperatively market Internet-based corporate purchasing products based on the platform. PeopleSoft will base its Business Network on the new Microsoft Commerce platform and SAP AG said it will support BizTalk.

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