Microsoft has released a collection of hosted web tools, and email, ecommerce and marketing services aimed at propelling small businesses into cyberspace.
Called Business Web Services, the package is based on the software giant's .Net platform and forms part of its bCentral programme for small businesses.
The service costs $24.95 a month and includes domain registration, email, site creation and hosting, ecommerce and web-based marketing. It is based on Microsoft Exchange Server 2000 and Outlook.
Satya Nadella, vice president of Microsoft bCentral, said the package addresses concerns from customers that many of their business functions overlap, such as marketing, building a web presence and finding customer leads.
"bCentral will build on the .Net platform to bring all of these services together, making these processes easier," she said.
Launched in September 1999, bCentral features a website which provides business information as well business management tools. According to Microsoft, it already boasts more than one million registered users.
Chris Le Tocq, an analyst at researcher Gartner, said the announcement illustrates how Microsoft is evolving its .Net strategy and subscription pricing to ensure future revenue growth. "Microsoft's challenge is to persuade businesses that its .Net services, which include bCentral and the Knowledge Worker group, are more attractive than what they have on their desktops today," he said.
Several other companies, including IBM, Xerox and Netscape, already have competing services aimed at helping get small businesses online.
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