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Microsoft Unleashes Commerce Server 2002 Beta

Software titan Microsoft Corp. Wednesday took the first step in its plan to reinvent its line of .NET Enterprise Server software as part of its Web services strategy with the release of the beta version of Commerce Server 2002.

"Commerce Server 2002, with its ability to tightly integrate with Visual Studio .NET, demonstrates Microsoft's commitment to empowering developers with tools and products to build .NET-ready e-commerce sites," said L.J. Germinario, product manager for Commerce Server at Microsoft. "Commerce Server 2002 delivers everything an organization needs to manage a global network of customers and trading partners, while providing the high performance and scalability necessary for today's enterprise."

The main thrust of the software, which updates Commerce Server 2000, is its tight integration with the Visual Studio.NET suite of development tools, giving developers the ability to build e-commerce applications using ASP.NET and the Microsoft .NET Framework. It features a Developer Portal, which includes a project creation wizard for creating Commerce Server projects from the Visual Studio .NET environment, and schema designers to create profiling and catalog systems hosted in the Visual Studio.NET environment. Additional .NET-based features include:

  • Commerce Server Application Runtime -- enables the configuration of .NET-based Commerce Server applications to run within ASP.NET
  • Commerce Server Base Class Library -- a collection of native classes, interfaces and value types that utilize the .NET Framework programming model, the library provides access to all run-time services and functionality in Commerce Server
  • Common language runtime layer -- makes it easier for developers to migrate from classic ASP applications to ASP.NET applications using COM interoperability features of the .NET Application Framework.

Microsoft said the new software offers other new features as well, including multilanguage and multiple currency support, as well as support for multinational shipping methods, multilingual product discounts and advertising. Additionally, a new virtual catalog feature makes it possible to create complex custom catalogs that organize products from multiple catalogs on a single computer running Microsoft SQL Server and support complex custom pricing.

The company has also added new profiling features and said it has improved profile schema management. The software also allows for integration with Microsoft's .NET Passport authentication service and .NET Alerts.

To take advantage of the new profiling possibilities, Microsoft said it also improved the discount engine, making it easier to offer targeted promotional prices to customers. New features include the ability to apply multiple discounts to a single line item or to a single order, to apply item-level and order-level discounts to an order simultaneously, or to apply percentage-off discounts and dollar-off discounts to an item or to an order simultaneously. The engine can also automatically determine the order in which percentage-off and dollar-off discounts are applied, and spread an order-level discount across all items on an order.

Finally, Microsoft said it has improved the software's analytics, providing Web usage, campaign and product sales analysis with room to create advanced analytics for B2C, B2B and CRM applications. It has added "grouped reports" to provide automated reporting for hosted ads and sites.

The software also features tutorials and guidelines on integrating .NET Web services into Commerce Server applications.

The beta version of the software is now available for download, and Microsoft anticipates releasing the final version in spring 2002. The software will be available in a Standard Edition for small- and medium-sized businesses, an Enterprise Edition for large organizations, a Developer Edition (available through MSDN Universal subscription or as a stand-alone product), and an Evaluation Edition with the same features as the Enterprise Edition but with a 120-day use limit.

Microsoft plans to update the rest of its .NET Enterprise Server line in the next year or so.