Microsoft Bolsters E-Commerce Offerings in LatAm

MIAMI (03/22/2000) - Bullish about Latin America's Internet market, Microsoft Corp. today made a series of announcements designed to boost the company's e-commerce offerings and presence in the region.

Among today's announcements, Microsoft said that it plans to launch a technology incubator for Internet startups in Latin America. The software giant is also developing partnerships for a major business-to-business initiative in the region, and expects to increase sales of Microsoft Office through a bundling agreement with an ISP (Internet service provider), company executives said during a press conference at Microsoft's Latin America Enterprise Solutions Conference 2000.

The technology incubator will be based in Argentina and designed to serve the many Internet startups sprouting up in that country and in neighboring Chile, said Alex Steinman, director of Microsoft's Southern Cone region, which includes Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay and Bolivia.

"About 50 percent of all Internet startups in Latin America have come from Argentina and Chile" and Microsoft wants to reach out to these companies through this incubator initiative, Steinman said.

The incubator would work in tandem with venture capitalists and business management incubators to assist entrepreneurs. Microsoft's incubator would offer technical assistance and products to Internet startups, he said.

Microsoft is also forming a series of partnerships throughout the region in preparation for a business-to-business initiative that will be launched this year, said Mauricio Santillán, the company's Latin America vice president. He added that Microsoft recognizes the interest that exists among companies in Latin America for this type of e-commerce service.

The software vendor has also entered into an agreement to load its Microsoft Office suite with the PCs that Teléfonos de México (Telmex) bundles with its Prodigy Plus Internet access service in México, said Felipe Sánchez, Microsoft's general manager for México.

Telmex, who offers financing options for these PCs to its ISP subscribers, plans to start shipping PCs loaded with Microsoft Office in about two weeks, Sánchez said. Microsoft will also offer Office at a discount price to existing subscribers of the Prodigy Plus service, he added.

The Telmex bundle, which includes PCs from vendors such as Compaq Computer Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co. and Apple Computer Inc., has been very successful so far and has helped spur PC shipments in México, market researchers International Data Corp. (IDC) and Dataquest Inc. have said.

Telmex, México's dominant telecommunications provider, and Microsoft, detailed yesterday a joint venture first announced last year to launch a Spanish-language portal called T1msn. [See "UPDATE - MS ESC: Gates Details Microsoft's LatAm Portal," March 21.]Microsoft's Santillán also announced that Avanade, the recently announced e-commerce joint venture between Microsoft and Andersen Consulting Inc., will soon open a subsidiary in Brazil. This will be followed by subsidiaries in México and Argentina before the end of this year, and a fourth one in Caracas in early 2001, Santillán said.

Finally, Pivotal Corp., Microsoft and KPMG Consulting today announced a program tailored for Latin American companies interested in doing business over the Internet that includes products, services and consulting.

Overall, business is booming for Microsoft in Latin America, where the company's revenues are growing at a 35 percent clip annually, Santillán said during today's press conference.

"We believe we'll be able to maintain that growth rate for two or three more years," Santillán said, adding that Latin America is the second-fastest growing region for Microsoft.

Microsoft, which has a strong presence in Latin America's large and mid-sized countries, is now eyeing the smaller markets, such as Bolivia and El Salvador, where the company set up subsidiaries recently, as well as Jamaica and Trinidad, where it recently launched sales operations, Santillán said.

Microsoft, in Redmond, Washington, can be reached at http://www.microsoft.com/.

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