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Pushing e-commerce standards

Major players in online commerce are forming an ambitious new organization to push for global standards.

Concerned that business-to-business Internet commerce is evolving in ways that may prove incompatible, major players in computer hardware, software, distribution, and electronic payments are forming an ambitious new organization to push for global e-commerce standards.

Called RosettaNet, the effort is described as promoting "open electronic content and transaction standards" for supply chain management, a term that refers to linking manufacturers and their suppliers electronically to increase efficiency.

"They don't want to squash competitiveness and it's not to stop innovation, but there is a certain level of agreement that needs to come on standards," said Fran Foster, manager of the Software Publishers Association Internet section. "That's the mission."

The effort, which is using the tag line "lingua franca for e-business," is said to involve key players worldwide in information technology. One participant in RosettaNet's first meeting described attendees as including representatives from Microsoft, Cisco Systems, Hewlett-Packard, Ingram Micro, SPA, UPS, and Federal Express. Government agency National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is an observer.

Former Ingram executive Fadi Chehadé, executive director of RosettaNet, is scheduled to deliver a speech Tuesday at SPA's spring conference in San Jose, California, to describe the problem RosettaNet seeks to address, but it's unclear how much he will say about RosettaNet. The organization is due to be unveiled next month.

Chehadé declined to discuss the new organization on the advice of his public relations firm, Edelman. Edelman also declined to comment.

Chehadé's biography describes him as a former Ingram vice president who helped develop the computer distributor's Web-based extranet linking hundreds of suppliers and thousands of resellers.

But a source familiar with the organization's plans said it will be a global effort and will work through existing standards efforts such as Open Buying on the Internet (OBI).

"OBI is stalled, SET is stalled, and CommerceNet is going a different direction, more like a chamber of commerce," said one person familiar with RosettaNet's plans. SET is the Secure Electronic Transactions protocol for secure credit card purchases over the Net, pushed by Visa and MasterCard.