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Microsoft Refreshes Commerce Server

Although Microsoft recently backed off plans to package three core business software applications as one offering called "Jupiter," the company is hardly giving up on the separate components, believing they will sell as standalone products.

To that end, the company unveiled a service upgrade pack for its Commerce Server 2002 application Monday, and laid out plans for a future versions of the software.

A key member of the Windows Server System, Commerce Server was the e-commerce component of the company's ambitious plan to bundle it along with BizTalk Server and Content Management Server in direct competition to Java software from IBM and BEA Systems.

But the company shelved the Jupiter plan after lukewarm response from customers, who reportedly were disinterested in buying all three products as one integrated suite. Microsoft agreed to continue selling the products separately and vowed to improve them.

Commerce Server offers user profile management, personalization, merchandising, catalog management, order processing and online business analytics, to enable e-commerce business transactions.

Feature Pack 1 features new IT and business management tools to allow the thousands of Commerce Server 2002 customers to achieve greater value, said Ted Kummert, corporate vice president in the Business Process and Integration Division at Microsoft.

As with most Microsoft software upgrades, Feature Pack 1 for Commerce Server was created with the influence of customer feedback, and includes new catalog and discount management business user interfaces to bolster usability and performance for users managing online discounts and catalog content.

Site staging support has also been added so changes can be easily reviewed by the business before the site goes live. There are also enhanced payment and catalog item sequencing features.

Microsoft said the upcoming version of Commerce Server will focus on connecting the online order management process with other business applications through cross-channel business reporting.

Slated for release in early 2006 as part of Windows Server, Commerce Server will include tighter integration with BizTalk Server and Visual Studio .NET (not unlike part of its Jupiter plans), as well as better user interfaces, more reporting tools for business managers and customer self-service, including the ability to check order status, inventory levels and account information.

Existing Commerce Server 2002 customers can download the Feature Pack 1 today here. For new customers, Commerce Server 2002 is available in four editions, a free Evaluation version; a Developer program for $499 per developer; a Standard edition for $6,999; and the business-class Enterprise version for $19,999 per CPU.