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E-commerce giants shift focus to ISPs

First persuade enterprises to do e-commerce, then persuade them that their ISPs should have done it after all

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ISPs are the latest target for e-commerce solution vendors, if announcements from Netscape, IBM and Hewlett-Packard, made separately, are anything to go by. Later today, during executive VP Mark Andreessen's keynote at ISP trade show ISPcon in San Francisco, California, Netscape will unveil Messaging Server 4.0 Hosting Edition, software designed to allow ISPs to handle outsourced applications on behalf of major customers. The server has been upgraded to offer greater scalability and performance, the company claimed. It is accompanied by Delegated Administrator, which lets users manage applications running on an outsourced host, and Messenger Express 4.0, a free Web-based email host -- Messaging Server 4.0 itself provides the email backbone and allows voicemail and faxes to be picked up by users as email messages. Messaging Server 4.0 Hosting Edition is scheduled to ship before the year is out -- Messenger Express and Delegated Administrator are due during Q1 1999. Hewlett-Packard, meanwhile, has unveiled a strategy boasting an alliance of 30 software vendors, including Netscape, Oracle, Microsoft, Inkomi and Software.com, and based upon a new line of rack-mount servers. Again, the emphasis is on ISP's keen to offer hosted e-commerce solutions to large enterprises, and forms a key component of HP's plan to muscle in on a market dominated by Sun. HP's pitch is that it can provide ISPs with all the hardware -- running Unix or NT -- and software that cover all aspects of the hosting business. That includes HP's WebQoS (Quality of Service) technology, which the company claims will allow ISPs to offer level of service guarantees. IBM's ISP-oriented push centres on versions of its e-commerce software tailored for ISPs keen to provide such services -- beginning to see a pattern yet? However, Big Blue's take on the market is to focus on small to medium-sized businesses -- or, rather, that's who it hopes its ISP customers should target -- instead of the corporates everyone else is going after. IBM's software will ship in December. It will provide ISPs will the tools to host large numbers of Web storefronts, provide a payment server and bill their owners using a variety of payment methods. Merchants themselves can use to the software to build Web shops very quickly. ® click for more stories

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