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Intel broadens hosting services

The giant chip-maker says it intends to expand its Web hosting offerings from consumer-oriented storefronts to lucrative business-to-business services.

Intel wants to be a better host on the Web.

The company said it intends to expand its Web hosting offerings from consumer-oriented storefronts to lucrative business-to-business services.

In an interview with CNET News.com this week, the company added details to a Web-hosting strategy first outlined in April. Beyond e-commerce hosting, Intel said it also plans to host enterprise resource planning (ERP) applications, streaming media, and other business applications.

Intel is smart to take advantage of the fact that more companies want to outsource management of applications to a trusted host, said Ken Allard, an e-commerce analyst at Jupiter Communications.

And Intel's aggressive hosting strategy puts it squarely in the middle of the growing market for application outsourcing, which lets companies rent software rather than buy it.

Intel, with its plan, aspires to become an outsourcer for outsourcers, getting ISPs and telecommunications companies such as British Telecom, Visa, and others to resell Intel Data Service's offerings.

That expands Intel's reach, but an ISP strategy could put it in competition with existing Web hosting services. Intel's iCat storefronts, for example, are hosted at Exodus but will be moved to the worldwide network of data centers Intel is currently building.

Intel's acquisition of iCat in December was an early signal of its interest in the hosting market. Several months ago Intel killed iCat's software business to focus on hosting storefronts.

This week's news also adds specifics to the company's overall e-commerce plans. Intel expects to book $15 billion in orders this year over the Net while expanding into other areas, too.

Recent initiatives include investments in e-commerce and Internet firms, including publicly traded e-commerce software vendor Open Market, payments firm CyberCash, digital ID issuer VeriSign, and e-procurement firm Ariba.

Another Net commerce thrust is Pandesic, Intel's joint venture with German software giant SAP. Pandesic offers a turnkey e-commerce service to get Web stores up and running in eight to 10 weeks, faster than building your own site. Pandesic is now promoting its service as an easy way for retailers to become e-tailers in time for the holidays.