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Tandem picks Mercantec for e-commerce

The established hardware maker teams up with the software start-up in the market for reliable e-commerce solutions.

Tandem Computers (TDM), which has marketed its fault-tolerant hardware to retailers and banks for many years, today said it will also peddle Internet commerce software from little-known company Mercantec.

Tandem also will adapt Mercantec's SoftCart 3.0 e-commerce software for Tandem's Himalaya line of proprietary, multiple-processor machines, designed for reliability so that Web storefronts are never closed if a server goes down.

The deal gives Mercantec an entrenched partner for selling to major retailers and banks, key Tandem markets. Mecantec sells its software through ISPs and Web site developers for $1,500 per storefront.

Tandem sees the relationship as another piece of its Internet commerce strategy to link buyers--both business and consumers--to a company's existing internal systems and eventually to suppliers.

Mercantec's low-priced basic package includes application programming interfaces (APIs) that let merchants create a Web storefront quickly, then link to existing legacy systems for inventory or billing.

"There's nothing revolutionary going on here, except that you get a lot for your money," said Abishek Gami, vice president at investment bank Nesbitt Burns Securities, the investment bank, which helped with Mercantec's initial financing and uses its software.

Robert Smith, Tandem's director of electronic commerce, cited Mercantec's 2,000 existing users, quick time to market, and open interfaces as factors for choosing the company's e-commerce software.

"We've been able to keep a product that works out of the box, so low-end merchants can...get up quickly. Half of our customers are up and running in two weeks," said Andy Parker, Mercantec's chief executive.

In April, Lockheed Martin won a major contract with RETEX, a major consortium of 1,500 retailers, to provide e-commerce solutions using Tandem hardware and Mercantec software.

Tandem's Internet Shopping products will start at $6,000 on Windows NT and range up to $250,000 for its high-end Himalaya machines, including consulting services. They will be available by the end of September.