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E-commerce tools to push .Net strategy

Microsoft will next week launch Commerce Server 2002, new software for building e-commerce Web sites and one of the first products supporting the company's .Net strategy.

Microsoft will next week launch Commerce Server 2002, new software for building e-commerce Web sites and one of the first products supporting the company's .Net strategy.

Microsoft will announce the product at next week's TechEd, a Microsoft-sponsored developer conference in New Orleans. The e-commerce building software is seen as an essential tool for building Web sites supporting Microsoft's .Net software-as-a-service strategy. To that end, Commerce Server is designed to work with new .Net technology included in Microsoft's Visual Studio.Net development tools and BizTalk Server integration software, said L.J. Germinario, technical product manager for Microsoft's Commerce Server team.

Commerce Server 2002 will allow Web site operators to manage catalogs of products and services and to tailor the content to customers' preferences. The product provides developers with the tools for building online buying and payment processes. The new version also adds support for Microsoft' SQL Server database management software and Activity Directory, the resource management service found in Windows 2000 and in the forthcoming Windows .Net Server.

Microsoft will offer three versions of the software: Developer for $499, the $6,999 Standard, and Enterprise for $19,999. Dealer prices are expected to be somewhat lower than list prices.

Through the end of July, businesses subscribing to either Microsoft's Software Assurance or Upgrade Advantage volume licensing programs will be able to purchase Commerce Server for up to 70 percent off the list price. The promotion includes a free, one-day assessment provided by one of more than 20 services partners working with Microsoft.

Microsoft estimates it has about 11,000 customers using either Commerce Server or Site Server.

In terms of new features, "No. 1 would be Visual Studio.Net integration," Germinario said. This integration means developers can create commerce applications from within Visual Studio.Net.

Another important new feature is the ability to create virtual catalogs, Germinario said. "Picture a virtual catalog as a view of a base catalog. You would create a virtual catalog to segment catalog information to specific user groups, maybe based on locale, language or currency. You could use a virtual catalog to apply an exchange rate to a set of products."

see special report: Web services: The new buzz Commerce Server works with the .Net Framework, a crucial piece of Microsoft's overarching .Net strategy. Currently a part of the Visual Studio.Net tools, the .Net Framework automates many development tasks and helps software run reliably and securely across multiple servers and computers.

The software is available for free download from Microsoft's Web site.

Because the .Net Framework includes prewritten code, it can save developers time, simplify a confusing array of programming interfaces, and eliminate common bugs, analysts said. It also includes the Common Language Runtime, which is a universal engine that will allow software developers to use many types of programming languages to write Windows applications.