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AMP helps the competition

Electronic parts giant AMP, which has one of the most advanced electronic commerce sites on the Internet, will announce next week that it has formed a systems integration unit to construct similar Web sites for other companies.

Electronic parts giant AMP (AMP), which has one of the most advanced electronic commerce sites on the Internet, will announce next week that it has formed a systems integration unit to construct similar Web sites for other companies.

AMP, which calls itself the world's market share leader for electrical connectors, electronic interconnection systems, and wireless devices, generated $5.2 billion in revenue last year selling electrical and electronic connectors to businesses ranging from PC vendors to appliance makers. It's new consulting group will be called AMP eMerce Internet Solutions.

"AMP is in a unique position to help clients harness the business potential of electronic commerce since we've doing it successfully ourselves," Jim Kessler, director of the new consulting practice, said in a statement. "Our mission is to provide integration services that enable clients to cost effectively leverage their existing information structure with Internet-based technologies."

AMP's Web site, launched in January 1996, today lists 72,000 of AMP's 200,000-plus products. The Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, company, with 42,000 employees in 45 nations, distributes product literature and lets visitors order free samples, but so far it isn't selling directly from the Web site. Kessler intimated that a pilot program selling to its biggest customers is coming soon.

The eMerce group will focus on creating commerce-oriented Web sites for other Fortune 1000 firms, particularly manufacturers and distributors. It will offer consulting, as well as develop database-driven electronic catalogs, set up business transactions, host Web sites, and integrate hardware and software elements. Clients can buy either a turnkey service or specific elements only.

Through Lucent Technologies, eMerce also will offer translation and localization services. AMP's site, for example, appears in eight languages.

A key technology in AMP's arsenal comes from tiny Saqqara Systems, which developed a parametric search engine called Step Search to locate and compare products in AMP's online catalog.

On Monday, Saqqara will introduce its own Step Search Enterprise, an authoring and publishing software tool for creating Web catalogs driven by product databases. The software, which also allows publishing on CD-ROM or via fax-on-demand, will be available in December for $20,000, although customers that sign up for Saqqara's Web hosting service can get the product next month.

Other technology suppliers to AMP's new initiative include Web server software vendor Open Market, database giant Oracle, catalog printer DataBase Publishing Software, and graphics house netImage.