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Software inventory stored online

Silicon Valley start-up previews software to let resellers distribute software electronically to corporate customers.

A Silicon Valley start-up today previewed new software that will let resellers distribute software electronically to corporate customers without long waits for downloading over the Net.

The company, BITSource, is targeting its SmartShelf product to hardware and software resellers, first at the corporate market and then at retailers as well.

"Now for the first time we can deliver Microsoft Office securely, electronically, and let the customer have the product in six minutes," said BITSource president David Rubin.

SmartShelf does that by storing the software's master copy locally, on a server in a corporate IS department or in the backroom at a retailer's site. When software is purchased, the only message that traverses the Internet is a key that unlocks the master and allows a copy of the software to be downloaded onto a computer hard drive or CD-ROM or over a corporate intranet.

BITSource believes it has solved two problems bedeviling electronic software distribution (ESD): security and lengthy downloads over a low-bandwidth Internet connection.

"Prior to this, ESD was talking about small software packages. Now a full suite of programs can be made available and can leverage the channel, which is by far the best sales machine," Rubin added.

BITSource will market SmartShelf, which it describes as a turnkey system for online software sales, to resellers rather than going direct to end users, either consumers or corporations.

The system will soon be installed at major value added resellers (VARs), including CompuCom Systems, Dataflex, and Computize. BITSource says the first software titles will be delivered by month's end, and it has been approved as a system to resell Microsoft and Lotus products.

SmartShelf has modules that let resellers manage pricing for specific customers, orders, and configurations plus issue reports.

The system's online catalog, which can be accessed through a browser, also includes "The Software Guy," an agent that asks customers to describe their needs and then makes recommendations based on their priorities.

BITSource derives revenue for each transaction and from annual subscriptions to its SmartShelf online catalog and SmartShelf Control Suite software.