Microsoft updates Web hosting tools

Microsoft Corp. is continuing to build out its Web hosting products, offering service providers new tools Tuesday to integrate Windows-based applications into their sites and help improve site management.

The software maker released its Windows-based Hosting Version 3.5, aimed at providers that offer shared Web hosting or discount dedicated server hosting. This version includes support for recent Microsoft products such as Microsoft Operations Manager 2005, offering an operations console and customized reports, and Windows Server Update Services, which reports server status.

With version 3.5 Microsoft also introduced Web Site Starters for Windows, a set of applications for development partners. The applications include integrated Web site building and Web blogging tools, forums and photo-sharing programs.

To use the hosting software, potential customers must sign up to Microsoft's Windows Web Hoster Program and enter into a service provider licensing agreement.

In the U.S. alone, the Web hosting service market is expected to grow by 13.4 percent annually for the next four years to US$11.4 billion, according to researcher IDC. The thriving market presents hosting software providers like Microsoft an opportunity to distribute their wares to service providers and developers.

The Redmond, Washington, company said Tuesday that it is pushing to capture more of the market, and is kicking off shared Web hosting seminars throughout North America and Europe between May 19 and June 30.

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