RealTime IT News

AOL Hopes To Nab Small Business Converts

It's better late than never as America Online, Inc., announced Wednesday the launch of its Netscape Netbusiness service for the small-business community.

But the world's number one Internet service provider figures its name and a little help from friends will spread the gospel of AOL branded e-business through its Netscape Communicator web browser.

It's a game of catchup. Companies like Microsoft Corp., with its bCentral offering, and Yahoo!'s Small Business site have already been out for some time, trying to grab the Internet attention of the more than 28 million small businesses nationwide.

These 28 million businesses account for 47 percent of all U.S. sales, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration, and by 2002 nearly 85 percent of those businesses will conduct business on the Internet.

Barry Schuler, AOL interactive services president, said that when people think Netscape, they think business.

"Market research shows that Netscape is one of the brands most associated with business," Schuler said. "Combined with America Online's reach and marketing power as well as its expertise and experience in creating the most convenient and easy-to-use Internet experience for consumers, Netscape Netbusiness will have all the tools to become the leader in this fast-growing but under-served market."

Calling on the power of its strategic alliances, AOL has other companies stumping for converts.

Office Depot Inc., is giving out free CD-ROM copies of Netscape Communicator at all its retail chains. The CD conveniently takes users to the Netbusiness registration site immediately after install.

Small businesses wanting to increase its presence on the Web need look no further than Sun Microsystems Inc., which AOL has an agreement with to provide Web hosting and e-business solutions.

Fred Singer, Netscape Netbusiness senior vice president and general manager, said it's all done to give people the tools that take advantage of the Internet's power.

"Netscape Netbusiness provides owners and employees of small businesses with a one-stop home on the Internet to help them better manage their operations, their industry and their lives," Singer said. "Netscape Netbusiness users now will be able to track key trends, network for leads, market and sell on the Internet, find the best deals on supplies, stay in close touch with customers, consult directly with experts and simplify their lives -- all for free.

"Netscape Netbusiness makes it convenient and easy for small businesses to tkae the fullest possible advantage of the Internet's power," Singer concluded.

The Netbusiness site also features a doctored version of AOL Instant Messenger, for members to keep track of contacts in the AOL network.