Microsoft is hoping to boost its MSN family of Web sites by acquiring Comparenet and introducing new technology to make it easier for companies and consumers to do business over the Internet.
The plans were announced at an event in San Francisco on Thursday, where Microsoft also outlined its ecommerce strategy (see Newswire 4 March 1999), which is intended to address a wide range of business needs from direct marketing and selling to employee self service and value chain trading.
Bill Gates, Microsoft?s chairman and chief executive said: "The Internet has forever changed the way that business is conducted. With these tools, our hope is that the ecommerce opportunity is opened up for everyone."
He continued: "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 ecommerce solutions. With tools like these, we can accelerate the market and within a year get a million new businesses online."
He added that the firm intended to introduce an integrated suite of products and services that would natively support Microsoft BizTalk, a new common language for ecommerce, which will also be supported in future versions of the Windows operating system, and the Office and BackOffice suite of products.
Biztalk is a framework for business to business ecommerce that enables companies to integrate their systems with those of their suppliers and customers by using common data formats based on XML (eXtensible Markup Language). Gates claimed it would make it easier for companies to conduct transactions, integrate their applications and exchange data.
He also said it would be used to create a comprehensive shopping directory for MSN so that companies could publish up to the minute pricing and availability data to the directory in a common format. The service will be available to traditional ?brick and mortar? shops too to enable them to participate in online commerce.
Biztalk was endorsed by organisations such as MasterCard International, Clarus, PeopleSoft and SAP.
But Microsoft also hopes that its acquisition of Comparenet will enhance MSN?s ecommerce appeal. Comparenet, which can be found at http://www.comparenet.com, is based in San Francisco and helps online shoppers find the best price for computers, cars, consumer electronics and a number of other products.
The site offers pricing information and product reviews for offerings from a variety of vendors and has about 1.5 million unique visitors each month. It will be integrated into MSN Sidewalk, Microsoft?s online city guide, which attracts 4.7 million unique users a month. The financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.
A third addition to MSN was the Microsoft Passport, an electronic wallet for online shopping, which according to Microsoft, will eventually enable users to buy goods securely from its MSN and partner sites without having to reenter their personal information.
But Robert Herbold, Microsoft?s chief operating officer also unveiled three additional new software products and services.
Microsoft Commerce Server, an upgrade to version 3.0 of the firm?s Site Server Commerce Edition will enable users to build sophisticated ecommerce sites for medium sized and large businesses.
A new Microsoft Biztalk Server will provide the tools and services required to improve the way companies share data, while Small Business Commerce Services will enable small businesses to build Web sites, promote their business and sell online as quickly as possible, Herbold claimed.
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