Microsoft released a near-final version of its software for building e-commerce sites and renamed the product Commerce Server 2007, from Commerce Server 2006, although it says it will still ship roughly on time in August.
The company made the "release candidate" for Commerce Server 2007 available for download by developers on Friday, from http://connect.microsoft.com/. A release candidate is typically a product that has been well tested and is close to completion.
An earlier version of the software went into beta testing at the start of the year under the name Commerce Server 2006. In a blog posting on the Microsoft Developer Network Friday, Microsoft developer Ryan Donovan was at pains to emphasize that the name change does not mean the software is going to be late.
"We are simply aligning to many corporate factors based upon the general availability date, which lies in Microsoft's Fiscal Year 2007 and happens to be at the start date of the launch wave for Windows Vista, Office 2007, Exchange Server 2007, etc. Nothing more and nothing less," he wrote.
Still, with general availability scheduled for August 1, according to Donovan, the software does appear to be slightly behind schedule. Microsoft said in February that it would be released in July.
A big focus of the upgrade is making it easier for customers to link their e-commerce site with back-end applications from the likes of SAP and Oracle. This is achieved using BizTalk Server and its various adapters for linking to third-party applications.
Another selling point is an "out-of-the-box starter site," which will include catalog browsing, shopping cart, profile management and other predesigned capabilities for setting up an online store.
While that's still scheduled for the final product, it won't be available with the release candidate. Instead it will be available as a Web download when Commerce Server 2007 is released to manufacturing, which is scheduled for June.
Commerce Server 2007 marks the first big upgrade for Microsoft's e-commerce software since 2002. It will be "the most revolutionary release of e-commerce technology in Microsoft's history," according to Donovan.
Other new features include support for the SOA (Services Oriented Architecture) development model and integration with Microsoft's ASP.Net 2.0 and Visual Studio 2005. The upgrade will also add better reporting capabilities and new tools for managing orders and customers, and support server clustering, Microsoft has said.
The release candidate made available Friday is the English-language version of the Enterprise Edition, for 32-bit and 64-bit Windows platforms. Other editions and languages will be available next month when Commerce Server 2007 is released to manufacturing, Donovan said. His blog posting is at http://blogs.msdn.com/rdonovan/archive/2006/05/19/602259.aspx
Commerce Server 2007 will compete with offerings from IBM, Art Technology Group (ATG), BroadVision, Ecometry (which merged with Blue Martini), and others.