Microsoft to sell via the Web

Microsoft to sell via the Web

Microsoft in the US will begin testing an Internet commerce service to sell its own products online from its Web site in April and will begin operating a fully-fledged service by August, according to officials.

But it seems Australian customers won't have the privilege of accessing the service. According to local Microsoft officials, the concept of selling software online was rejected because it is "not suitable for Australia conditions".

Currently in its creation phase, the project -- code-name Nitro, which stands for New Interactive Technology for Resellers Online -- will place an interactive store on the Microsoft site and place a "buy now" button on every page featuring a product, according to Neil Farnsworth, general manager of business development for Microsoft's end-user customer unit.

"Any place in where there are products talked about there will be a 'buy now' button," Farnsworth said.

Although Microsoft will be placing itself in direct contact with its customers, it is being very careful to provide its reseller community with connections to the site, according to Farnsworth. Any time customers want to purchase products they will be shown a list of resellers who can offer a price that is 10 per cent to 15 per cent lower.

"Microsoft is saying that it is going to be charging a higher price and encouraging customers to order from the reseller because they will be able to provide a lower price," said Scott Maentz, software product marketing vice president at US distributor, Tech Data. "The fact that they are including resellers in this business model is encouraging to us. It will be interesting to see how this will play out."

Although the store offers the possibility of removing a tier of channels in getting products to market, Microsoft has no plans to begin distributing its product without resellers.

Microsoft is hoping that by selling products to visitors of its site it can gather information about them at the same time.

"Right now we're getting 1.5 million people a day coming through our site, and we have no idea who they are and no idea if they are buying our products, and that's a problem for us and our resellers," Farnsworth said.

The company plans to create a database of customer information and personalise the site for each customer based on that information. Microsoft also plans to offer a service where customers can be notified of upgrades via e-mail. A "buy now" button in the e-mail will connect the user directly to Microsoft or to the user's preferred reseller.

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