"Zoning" in on the Web

"Zoning" in on the Web

The affordability gap that has kept Australian small and medium sized businesses (SMBs) from contributing to the rising tide of electronic commerce is one step closer to being bridged, following the announcement of a "DIY e-commerce" initiative from one of Australia's largest banks and a Melbourne Internet technology developer.

Recently listed claims its joint initiative with the National Australia Bank will help small businesses and home users with no Web-development experience create e-commerce enabled sites for less than $100 per month.

Following in the footsteps of similar projects, such as IBM's Home Page Creator program, the MultiEmedia/ NAB venture will utilise the capabilities of the developer's new browser-run Web development tool, ZoneStudio, to deliver "a secure end-to-end ordering and payment facility online", the two partners claim.

MultiEmedia's chairman, Adrian Ballintine, expects the initiative to encourage more SMBs in the uptake of the Internet business model that has hitherto been impeded by the high costs of infrastructure development.

"Over 200,000 small and medium businesses in Australia want to have their own home pages and be e-commerce ready by 2000, but typically cannot afford to invest $40,000 plus on getting there," Ballintine claimed. "ZoneStudio provides this business community in Australia with a crucial stepping stone to getting and transacting online," he said.

According to Michael Liley, NAB's general manager for retail and channel management, the addition of the ZoneStudio-based model to the bank's Internet offer will further diversify its e-commerce campaign. "We have provided e-commerce platforms for a diverse range of merchants for the past two years [and] we are pleased to be involved with the ZoneStudio initiative, which will help to bring the opportu-nities of e-commerce within reach of many more Australian businesses," he said.

But for MultiEmedia, which in the past focused on consulting in the corporate market, the DIY e-commerce program for small business represents a significant shift in strategy.

According to Ballintine: "We are now taking the experience we've gained by building large corporate sites to the small business sector, where there is a strong need for standardised products to allow companies with small budgets to join the virtual community."

Using banks as their primary tool of marketing what is essentially an application service provider (ASP) service, Ballintine however said the concept may also appeal to the reseller community already familiar with MultiEmedia's other ASP products - IntraZone, SalesZone and EduZone. is ZoneStudio?

Based on a Cold Fusion engine and an ODBC compliant database server, ZoneStudio is a client-server application that is run through a browser (thin client). Its four-tier architecture allows it to support hundreds of users due to extensive scalability and features full online shopping mall and e-commerce integration capabilities. ZoneStudio contains over 100 professionally designed and customisable templates to allow people to build e-commerce-ready Web sites without having to have a knowledge of HTML editing, file transfer protocols and so on. The application has been designed to give the lower end of the market the opportunity to "develop $35,000 look and feel sites for under $100 per month", the company claimed.

Incorporated: 1994

Focus: Bringing online and e-commerce solutions to the domestic and world "mass-markets"Revenue: $6 million for FY 1998/99Listed: 1999Asx code: AEVShare price: $0.36Partners: US, China, India, Singapore, Hong KongCompetitors Recently won the Nissan account from Spike NetworksFacts: The company is majority owned by Australian Environmental Resources. Five per cent of the company is owned by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen's Vulcan Ventures

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