Microsoft, eBay announce strategic alliance

Microsoft Corp. and eBay Inc. announced a strategic alliance Monday, pledging to work together to expand their collective reach online and to make their software work well together.

The deal, with undisclosed financial terms, calls for eBay to support Microsoft’s .NET initiative, linking eBay’s community-based commerce engine – the software allowing sellers to list items for auction and site visitors to bid – to Web developers as an XML-based Web service. The two companies intend for Web sites supporting .NET technology to be able to list relevant items up for auction on eBay through an XML (extensible markup language) interface.

When first developing the .NET strategy, Microsoft executives asked: “What would be the one company that, if it got behind .NET, would be the most compelling?” said Steve Ballmer, Microsoft’s CEO in a teleconference Monday. A deal with eBay – one of the rare, successful pure-play Internet companies – topped the list.

“EBay is more than just a leader in e-commerce. It’s one of those companies you can say would not exist without the Internet,” he said. “This is a gift from the gods, so to speak.”

Microsoft will integrate eBay’s marketplace into a number of its Web properties later this year, including select MSN Internet service sites worldwide; the automotive sales and advice site Carpoint; the small business service bCentral; and interactive television service WebTV, according to the release. Carpoint, for example, will use eBay auctions for automotive parts and used car listings.

Also, eBay agreed to use Microsoft technology in its site operations, including Windows 2000 Server on its front-end servers and Microsoft Passport for customer registration and sign in.

The auction site will continue to use Sun Microsystems Inc. equipment on its back-end systems, said Meg Whitman, eBay’s president and CEO, in the teleconference.

Ebay, in San Jose, Calif., can be reached at http://www.ebay.com/. Microsoft, in Redmond, Wash., can be reached at http://www.microsoft.com/.