Online giants Microsoft and Yahoo! have marked out the next battleground for revenue in the Internet world – the small business sector.
Late last week, Microsoft an-nounced the launch of its “BizTalk” e-commerce platform, aimed at establishing its Microsoft Network (MSN) portal as the world’s premier e-commerce site. It hopes to catapult millions of small businesses into the sector.
According to Bill Gates, Microsoft founder and chief executive,who was at the launch of the initiative: “We can’t put millions of businesses up online without thinking about integration with other business processes.
“The stove-pipe approach with separate systems just isn’t adequate. With low-cost, high-volume tools, we can accelerate the market and within a year get a million new businesses online.”
As big business and major media groups continue to puzzle over how they can justify online investment – and convert “eyeballs” into dollars, euros and pounds sterling – Gates and other online brands are now targeting SMEs (small and medium sized enterprises), hoping to sell a range of software and low level online commerce consultancy services in large volumes.
Microsoft will sell its BizTalk software alongside its Small Business Commerce Services from the summer, to compete against a range of competitors including IBM and Netscape.
The global launch is expected to dovetail the expansion of its existing online marketing consultancy service available through its Link-Exchange subsidiary, which is sold to small businesses through a monthly subscription. Microsoft launched a UK-based LinkExchange subsidiary last month.
Meanwhile, Net rival Yahoo! also unwrapped its plans to establish itself as first port of call for small businesses going online, with the launch of Fusion Marketing Online (FMO). The service is aimed at providing an improved “one-stop shop” to businesses seeking e-commerce and online marketing services.
The company is keen to roll out its expanding range of e-commerce and marketing services to markets beyond North America as soon as possible.