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Microsoft portal targets small businesses

Microsoft launches its much anticipated Web portal targeting small businesses.

Microsoft today launched its much anticipated Web portal targeting small businesses.

As previously reported, bCentral is a new Web-based business portal created to address the needs of small and growing companies, and direct them to the Micrososft Network (MSN), Microsoft's larger Web portal site.

The site will aggregate MSN's small-business offerings, which include advertising network LinkExchange, travel Web site Expedia, and headlines from MSNBC.

The site provides assistance in three key areas: getting a business started online by connecting to the Web and building and registering a Web site; promoting and marketing online to reach new customers; and managing a business more effectively, the company said.

bCentral will go head to head with Netscape's Netcenter portal, whose successful focus on business users was said to have been one of the main reasons America Online acquired Netscape early this year. Other portal sites, including Yahoo and Lycos, recently have bolstered their small-business offerings as well.

In the works is a plan to make Microsoft's Office software applications, which include common productivity tools like those for spreadsheets and word processing, available through bCentral.

Microsoft "designed bCentral to help drive businesses forward in tangible and measurable ways--by helping them leverage the Web to affordably expand their customer base, offering them reliable Web access, and saving them time and money on many of the day-to-day hassles of managing a business," Deborah Whitman, director of marketing for Microsoft bCentral, said in a statement.