Accountancy software giant Sage is to offer its two million customers free Internet connection and a free web site, and will launch a business portal site.
Next month, Sage will offer customers the opportunity to sell their goods online using a full-blown electronic commerce system, featuring an electronic catalogue and facilities for credit card transactions, for £25 a month.
IBM is hosting the company's site, Sage.com, and Sage is integrating IBM's Home Page Creator service with its software.
Sage said only a third of its small and medium business customers are connected to the Internet, and fewer than five per cent have their own web site.
'We've been looking at the Internet and ecommerce for the past three to four years, and think the time is right now for all companies to get involved,' said Paul Stobart, business development director at Sage.
Sage will add business specific content, including live business and financial news feeds, and business advice. The company will also add other web-based services, including credit referencing, parcel tracking, travel and electronic banking facilities to its site over the next few months.
'Whereas the majority of portal services are aimed at the general consumer, Sage.com is entirely focused on the business community,' said Stobart.
Sage said it will progressively 'portal enable' its financial software, so that electronic commerce transactions will be more integrated with users' back end software. However, Stobart admitted it would be 'some time' before all modules in Sage's software products were fully integrated.
The Sage announcement follows SAP's portal launch, mySAP.com. Enterprise resource planning vendor SAP is also offering its customers access to Internet commerce via its site, as well as consultancy services to help users build larger, transaction-based web sites.
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