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Microsoft's e-commerce software put to test

The company releases the test version of Commerce Server 2000, its latest server software for building e-commerce Web sites.

Microsoft today released the test version of Commerce Server 2000, the software giant's latest server software for building e-commerce Web sites.

Commerce Server 2000 comes equipped with several new features, along with software products tightly integrated in the areas of content management and business intelligence, Microsoft said.

The server software lets business and consumer e-commerce Web site operators tailor content for particular customers and manage catalogs of products and services. An online travel site can use the software to target discount tickets to frequent flyers, for instance.

Microsoft, which made the announcement at this week's PC Expo trade show in New York, said the final product release is slated for this fall.

Like many of its competitors in the lucrative business e-commerce market, including Oracle, Sun Microsystems and IBM, Microsoft is pitching a one-stop answer for businesses looking for an easy way to set up e-commerce Web sites.

Last week, Microsoft revealed a new business strategy, called Microsoft.Net, aimed at making Microsoft's existing software available over the Web to traditional PCs and to new, increasingly popular devices such as cell phones and handheld computers.

The strategy includes Microsoft's Web-development software, called Windows DNA, which includes the SQL Server database and new software tools to help developers build Web-based software.

The latest version of Commerce Server works with Microsoft's BizTalk server, which is the company's XML-based software for linking computing systems and applications across the Net. XML (Extensible Markup Language) is a Web standard for data exchange.

In addition, the software giant said a host of industry partners, including Interwoven, Harmony Software, Visual Insights and Knosys, have each announced products in the areas of content management and business analysis that work with Commerce Server.

Meta Group analyst Gene Alvarez said that while Microsoft has bolstered its e-commerce software offerings with its latest version, the product is still on the more complex side.

"Microsoft's Commerce Server does a whole lot more," said Alvarez. "They've beefed it up to be an industrial commerce application, but at the same time, they don't believe they can do all of that and (hope to) simplify it."

Alvarez added that Microsoft, like its rivals in the highly competitive market for e-commerce software products, is busy trying to attract newer dot-com clients as well as larger organizations by pitching "easier" and "faster" implementations.

Developers and customers can register for the Commerce Server 2000 beta product, which is scheduled to debut within two weeks, at the company's product information site. Microsoft said the product will have an estimated retail price of $8,499 per server processor.