MS to retire bCentral, launch new small biz sites

Overhauling its online services for small businesses, Microsoft Corp. on Tuesday said it will replace bCentral with a new Microsoft Small Business Center Web site.

The Microsoft Small Business Center will offer all the information and services found on bCentral, but add detailed information on Microsoft products for small businesses such as Office Small Business Edition and Windows Small Business Server, Microsoft said in a statement.

Additionally, Microsoft hopes the new name will raise the profile of the service for small businesses. BCentral had little to no brand awareness, the Redmond, Washington-based company said.

BCentral services vary by country. The U.S. version includes Web hosting and online marketing help. BCentral has attracted about two million registered users worldwide, but did not deliver what small businesses were looking for, such as detailed information on specific products, Microsoft said.

Small Business Center will be offered globally and fill the gaps in Microsoft's communication with small businesses, the vendor said. After starting the introduction in the U.K., Canada, Australia and Japan this month, the site will be introduced in France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and the U.S. in the second half of this year, Microsoft said.

The transition from bCentral to Microsoft Small Business Center should be seamless for current users, Microsoft said. The new service should be online in 40 countries by mid-2005 and bCentral will be phased out in each country after the introduction of Small Business Center, Microsoft said.

The Australian and the U.K. versions of Small Business Center are online at: and