IBM Pushes Worldwide Internet Commerce

IBM Corp. is moving forward with its push toward worldwide Internet commerce and announced this week several enhancements to its Net.Commerce system.

The company has also announced the availability of preview technology for the Net.Commerce system and for the CyberAuction and Hotmedia systems, as well as the general availability of its IBM Net.Commerce Hosting server.

The company also hinted at what can be expected in next year's major version release of the system in addition to a change to the company's schedule of future release dates.

With the release of the Net.Commerce system 3.1.2, the commerce platform will provide transaction information both on the European Currency Unit, or euro, slated to be installed by European countries on Jan. 1, and in local currency as well.

"We have supported for a long time now multiple currencies, what we've done with the euro cap is to do a dual display of the local currency and the euro," said Karl Salnoske, general manager of electronic commerce in IBM's Software Solutions Division.

Support of the euro is going to be essential for any multinational corporation in counting down to the new year.

"Support for the European Currency Unit will become a mandatory feature for all commerce systems very soon," said Vernon Keenan, an Internet analyst at Keenan Vision, in San Francisco. "It has a chance to affect U.S. multinationals as they are confronting the euro, [year 2000], and [enterprise resource planning] integration all at the same time, so anything that can help is a good thing."

IBM is also previewing both auction capabilities, whereby users can utilize the system to provide price negotiation on products, and Hotmedia, IBM's means of delivering graphics information and animation without the need for plug-ins.

Both are available now for download on the IBM Web site.

Both capabilities will be included in the Version 4 release of the Net .Commerce system next summer, along with a major shift to a Java-based platform, according to Salnoske.

"With the next major release of Version 4 you will see us move to a complete Java programming model," Salnoske said. "That will really be the release where you will see a significant evolution of our technology."

In addition, IBM officials have announced that the company is now shipping its Net.Commerce Hosting Server for banks, ISPs, and other institutions.

Based on initial customer feedback, however, the product will be updated for another release in January, according to Salnoske.

"We've been asked by the banks to integrate the IBM payment server into the hosting server," Salnoske said.

The company intends to slow down its release schedule to assuage harried IT managers, Salnoske added.

"We're slowing down the timing of major releases so our customers have a chance to install the product and get it operational before we hit them with another major release," Salnoske said.

IBM has also announced 18 new business partner relationships, including relationships with CornerStone Technologies, CyberCash, CyberSource, e2 Software Corp., Information Builders, Ironside Technologies, Seagate Software, and United Parcel Service.

The IBM Net.Commerce Hosting Server will be generally available on the Windows NT and AIX platforms on Dec. 18 and Sun Solaris platform on Jan. 29.

IBM Net.Commerce Hosting Servers start at $12,499 for the first processor and include five merchant licenses.

IBM Corp., in Armonk, New York, can be reached at www.ibm.com.

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