The tech titan releases a test version of Commerce Server 2002, its latest software designed to help companies build e-commerce Web sites.
The upgrade offers several new features, including the ability to support multiple languages and currencies. It also boasts tight integration with Microsoft's forthcoming Visual Studio.Net suite of software development tools, allowing programmers to create custom features for their e-commerce Web sites, Microsoft executives said.
Commerce Server lets Web site operators manage catalogs of products and services and tailor the content to customers' preferences. It also provides developers with the tools needed for building the online buying and payment processes.
The test version is available for download from Microsoft's Web site, with a final version expected this spring, said L.J. Germinario, technical product manager for Microsoft's Commerce Server team.
Commerce Server 2002 works with Microsoft's .Net e-business software infrastructure products, which include the SQL Server database, software that stores and collects corporate and other Web site data; and BizTalk Server, the company's XML-based software for linking computing systems and applications across the Internet. XML, or Extensible Markup Language, is a standard for exchanging data over the Web.
Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft, which competes against Oracle, IBM, Sun Microsystems and others in the lucrative market for e-business software, plans to update its entire line of .Net Enterprise Server software offerings in the next 12 to 18 months, Germinario said.
The software family is part of Microsoft's overarching .Net strategy for Web services, through which software is available as a service over the Internet for PCs and myriad other devices such as cell phones and personal digital assistants. Visual Studio.Net, available in February, is the set of tools that will allow programmers to build XML-based Web services.
Germinario said that Commerce Server 2002 also offers tutorials and guidelines on how businesses can integrate Web services into their sites, such as Microsoft's Passport authentication service or .Net Alerts service, which allows Web sites to contact and send messages to customers via PCs, cell phones and other handheld devices.
Microsoft also claims that the new version of Commerce Server features improved performance, reliability and security.
Commerce Server 2002 will come in two models, Germinario said: a standard edition for small and medium-size customers, and an enterprise edition for large corporations. The current release of Commerce Server is priced per server processor. A standalone version costs $8,499 per processor; a version bundled with SQL Server is priced at $12,999 per processor.