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.

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