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FedEx delivers e-commerce services

The express-delivery giant is teaming with Net business company Orbit Commerce to help small to medium-sized businesses build online stores.

Federal Express is delivering a service that will help small to medium-sized businesses build online stores.

The service, to launch later this summer, will be offered by the express-delivery giant through an alliance with Orbit Commerce, an Internet business company. The companies will host applications and services that help small and medium-sized businesses set up shop on the Net quickly. The Web stores will be integrated with FedEx's shipping and tracking systems.

This strategy pits the delivery company against Network Commerce (formerly Shopnow.com), Amazon.com's zShops and Bank of America--all of which have services that host or help businesses create online stores or set up e-commerce services.

FedEx is playing catch-up in the e-commerce sector with rival United Parcel Service. UPS has moved from simply delivering goods to creating a subsidiary that is researching and developing new businesses in the package-delivery industry.

The subsidiary's first project was also aimed at small to midsized businesses with complete logistical services, from warehousing and orders to customer service.

While UPS further streamlines e-commerce delivery services by expanding into electronic payments and other logistical systems, FedEx plans to provide Web design and hosting services.

FedEx hopes to entice some of its 2.5 million-plus customers to use the new services.