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Microsoft Corp chairman Bill Gates launched his company into an ambitious attempt to take charge of the e-commerce market at a press event in San Francisco yesterday. Stressing standards and support for the XML Extensible Markup Language, Gates laid out the plans for a new e-commerce and application integration framework called BizTalk, due to go into beta testing this summer. Gates also announced Microsoft's acquisition of online comparison shopping service, CompareNet Inc as part of an effort to create "an open market" on the Microsoft Network, and plans to extend its range of e-commerce tools and services. BizTalk, not yet described in great technical detail, is a "cross-platform e-commerce framework" intended to make it easier to integrate applications and conduct business over the internet, said Microsoft. It will be based on XML schemas and vertical market industry standards and used to integrate business processes across industries and between business systems. It will be independent of platform, operating system or underlying technology, and Microsoft says it plans to incorporate it within all of its future products, including Commerce Server, Office, BackOffice and Windows. Microsoft hopes that BizTalk, but supporting a mixture of XML and EDI messaging, will extend the reach of ERP backbones to e-commerce and the web. At the San Francisco event, the company demonstrated integration between PeopleSoft and Great Plains applications over the internet as part of an e-commerce transaction through BizTalk. Microsoft has joined the Open Application Group and is working with a group of customers, ISV partners and OEMs to establish business practice schemas for vertical markets, including 1-800- FLOWERS, Active Software Inc, Best Buy Co, Dell Computer Corp, Level 8 Systems Inc, PeopleSoft Inc, SAP AG, Sharp Electronics Corp and Sterling Commerce Inc. It promises to use industry specific standards already under development, including Windows DNA initiatives in the retail, financial services, healthcare, manufacturing and value chain areas, and says it will hold open design reviews in the third quarter. A beta version of the BizTalk server, which will include interchange and data transformation capabilities and trader partner management tools, will appear in July, and Microsoft says it will issue deployment guides in the fourth quarter. BizTalk will be used to add a full-scale shopping directory for the MSN Microsoft Network, and to speed up its implementation, Microsoft announced yesterday that it had acquired San Francisco- based Compare.Net, a two-year-old privately-held company. Compare.Net will be added into MSN's SideWalk online guide and used to expand comparison shopping capabilities. The MSN Open Marketplace, due to emerge in the second half of this year, will also include a new secure purchasing and single sign-on and single-click shopping service for online consumers called Microsoft Passport. Approved by third-party privacy enforcement organization TRUSTe, Microsoft says it will extend Passport across all MSN sites, the Hotmail email service, the Microsoft web site and third party sites that agree to adhere to the privacy rules. Microsoft also plans to launch two new e-commerce products, Microsoft Commerce Server and Microsoft Small Businesses Commerce Server, both to enter beta testing in the middle of the year. Commerce Server is the next generation of the current Site Server Commerce edition version 3.0, adding real-time marketing capabilities such as higher performance personalization and targeting systems, advanced catalog management and OLAP and business analysis services. It will use the Active Directory services due to appear with Windows 2000 for improved scalability and robustness - aspects often criticized in current versions. It will be tightly integrated with SQL Server version 7.0, and with the promotional services of MSN, such as LinkExchange. Small Business Commerce Services, a new product, is intended for small businesses who need to quickly build a site, promote it and sell their products on the web. Built around Microsoft's FrontPage web application builder, will also be tied in to MSN promotional services. Both products will support BizTalk. Both Peoplesoft Inc and SAP AG announced renewed partnerships with Microsoft foe e-commerce products, with Peoplesoft saying it would use Microsoft technologies for its own PeopleSoft Business Network announced last November. PeopleSoft and SAP are both working with Microsoft on BizTalk integration. Microsoft also announced a joint collaboration with Mastercard International Inc and Clarus Corp to cooperatively market integrated internet-based corporate purchasing technology. The three will use Microsoft's Commerce Platform, Mastercard's merchant acceptance and Clarus electronic procurement software.
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Publication:Computergram International
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 5, 1999

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