March 17, 1997 10:00 AM ET
IBM commerce Catalog Server gets smart
By Jim Kerstetter

  IBM is adding cataloging capabilities to its Net.Commerce electronic commerce server to enable customers to sell more complex products on their Web sites.

Most of the new commerce tools, which IBM is calling Smart Catalog internally, will be available as add-ons to the next version of Net.Commerce. The upgrade, which is expected to be called Version 2.0, is due to ship in late May, said Karl Salnoske, general manager of IBM's Internet Applications Solutions division, in Somers, N.Y.

The Java-based Smart Catalog tools start with the Catalog Workbench, a set of objects that allow users to build a navigable structure defining the configurable aspects of products, such as color and components, to be sold on a Net.Commerce server. It will cost $15,000, Salnoske said at Internet World here last week.

Other tools will include the Comparator, which allows users to create frames to compare products side by side; the Product Explorer, which allows users to peruse a product directory; and Sales Assistant, which will allow companies to create a decision tree process to give end users the option of asking questions to find the product they are looking for. All three will cost between $3,000 and $5,000.

A fourth tool, a product Configurator similar to those sold by companies such as Trilogy Development Group, will be released later this year.

IBM also is upgrading Net.Commerce itself, moving it beyond its DB2 database foundation to become compliant with the Open Database Connectivity standard. IBM also will open up its APIs, enabling the commerce server to work with most Web servers.

The Net.Commerce server upgrade will be compliant with the SET (Secure Electronic Transaction) specification, which is due in final version by June. Within two months of the final SET 1.0 spec, IBM plans to deliver SET-enabling tool kits. The first will be a browser plug-in to develop customized electronic wallets. The second will be a bank tool kit that will add SET support to transaction gateways. Pricing has not been set.

Additional reporting by Michael Moeller

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