Accountancy software vendor Sage has formed a partnership with IBM to provide Internet and Ebusiness services to Sage's 2 million worldwide small-business customers.
Starting on 1 June, Sage will offer free services on its www.sage.com portal, including Internet access and Email, tools to build simple Web sites, access to business and financial data and electronic banking links, Sage said last week.
The initiative could generate lucrative Ecommerce for both vendors in the long term, as Sage's customers begin to build transactional Web sites and incorporate the Internet into their operations.
Sage business development director Paul Stobart told PC Week that the vendor would introduce paid services, including scaleable electronic storefronts, based on IBM Home Page Creator and high-level support, to which customers could upgrade.
Large companies have rushed to become Internet-enabled in recent months, but small businesses are lagging, research conducted by Sage shows. Just 30% of Sage's 300,000 UK customers have Internet access and less than 5% a Web presence.
So Sage and IBM both recognised an opportunity to deliver services to companies in this sector over the past 12 months, said IBM's small business marketing manager, Andy McFarlane.
The partnership is the first of its kind for IBM in the UK. The two vendors are rolling out similar schemes in Europe and the US.
IBM was attracted by Sage's large small-business customer base and would seek similar relationships as the opportunity arose, McFarlane said.
Sage and IBM had worked together to offer hardware and software bundling deals for more than two years, he added.
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