A Canadian software company has reached a unique deal with Microsoft in which it has essentially become part of the product development team for the next version of Commerce Server.
Ottawa-based Cactus Commerce said the deal would include developing relationships with other Microsoft partners around Commerce Server as well as marketing, services and support. Commerce Server, which was released last summer, is Microsoft’s development environment for creating applications that allow companies to buy and sell products online.
Microsoft announced on Wednesday the next version, code-named Commerce Server 7, will be available in 2010. In the meantime the company will release “accelerator” updates that will make the existing product interoperable with other Microsoft software.
Cactus Commerce founder and CTO Jean-Yves Martineau said the company had its own e-commerce product line but was doing more and more work with Commerce Server clients. Its technology will now be folded into the next version of Commerce Server, he said.
“We were really an add-on before. In combining those things, Cactus worked as a sub-contractor for various Microsoft teams,” he said, including the team responsible for BizTalk Server.
“Commerce Server was definitely close to our heart, though. We basically became one of the central partners Microsoft would dispatch for any Commerce Server opportunity. It came to a point where our batting average was very good.”
Martineau would not disclose the revenue model for the deal, but said the only thing close in comparison was Microsoft’s stake in the television network MSNBC. “It’s a very unique deal. The actual agreement is worth tens of millions of dollars. This is not a one year thing, it’s not a couple year thing. It’s long-term.”
Ryan Donovan, product unit manager for Microsoft Commerce Server, said Commerce Server 2007 accelerators will begin shipping in the second half of next year. These will include technology to allow greater interoperability between Commerce Server and its SharePoint portal product, Microsoft Dynamics ERP and CRM and Windows Live Services.
Donovan said Commerce Server already integrated well with competitive products from Oracle and SAP through BizTalk Server.
“We actually were offering a stronger interoperability with partner products than with our own,” he said. “This will close that gap.”
Microsoft is trying to lure more customers to Commerce Servers by developing features that will facilitate one-to-one customer care between buyers and sellers, Donovan said. Future versions will also incorporate the use of social networking tools.
“On the back end, it’s about being able to have targeted personalization that can work across all of that,” he said.
Martineau said Cactus Commerce will be creating technology that allows users to offer similar marketing content across various media. Those developing e-commerce front-end interfaces for a PC might use JPEG images, for example, but on a cell phone it makes more sense to use lighter Scaleable Vector Graphics.
“It’s going to separate what you are trying to show from its physical representation,” he said.
Cactus Commerce will continue to focus on areas outside of its Microsoft partnership, Martineau said, in particular helping retailers get their data in order as they move towards e-commerce.