February 01, 2001, 9:43 AM — Taking aim at multinational corporations trying to tie up their existing business channels, IBM this week released a new version of its WebSphere Commerce Suite.
WebSphere 5.1, which is written in Java, will let companies target e-commerce stores toward users based on language, currency, sales tax and shipping rules. Companies will build the Web sites based on the information users supply in their profiles. For example, French users will enter a Web site written in French and receive product pricing in French francs and euros. Besides supporting French, the tool also supports German, Spanish, English, Italian, Portuguese, Japanese, Korean, and simplified and traditional Chinese. The revamped WebSphere is prepackaged with IBM's WebSphere Application Server
The software's ability to handle multiple languages allows companies to use their existing infrastructure, so they won't have to build different stores for each country they want to service, says Ed Kilroy, general manager of e-commerce for IBM's software group. Companies can also add their own translations.
WebSphere software also supports mobile devices, such as cellphones and PDAs, enabling users to access notification messages, Web content and shopping sites.
Shawn Wilett, an analyst at Current Analysis, says the globalization and mobile computer functions put IBM and WebSphere 5.1 ahead of competitors BroadVision and Blue Martini. "[IBM] has been very successful with this product, and they've made a pretty good effort" by adding multiple language and mobile computing support, Wilett says. However, WebSphere 5.1 now features more business-to-consumer features than business-to-business features. "There's enough [for users] to do with [business-to-business], but IBM will have to reorient the product to do [business-to-business]," Wilett says.
WebSphere 5.1 is available now in English for Microsoft Windows NT, and will be released for AIX Feb. 28 and Solaris March 30. It will be available in the other languages on Feb. 28 for Windows NT, and March 30 for AIX and Windows 2000. IBM expects to release a Linux version later this year. The tool is priced at $9,000 per processor for the Start Edition, and $45,000 per processor for the Pro Edition.