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Computer Reseller News (CRN)

4:00 p.m. EST Fri., May 16, 1997


Actra To Roll Out E-Commerce Line

By Michael Kanellos


Actra Business Systems LLC will make its formal entry into the electronic-commerce market Monday by unveiling the plans on the five products that will make up its CrossCommerce line.

And although Actra is planning to build up its direct-sales force around these products, Netscape Communications Corp.'s vice president of channel management, John Hahn, maintains that the Actra line will go through the channel.

The CrossCommerce line consists of ECXpert, an electronic data interchange (EDI) system that can handle Internet communications; OrderXpert Seller and OrderXpert Buyer, two similar Internet systems that support EDI; and the Merchant and Publishing system transferred to Actra from Netscape.

"These products are aimed at high-cost, high-volume transactions with a low value associated with them," said Ray Rike, vice president of sales and marketing for Actra. Office-supply purchases, for instance, are a target application because supplies can be bought without much thought, although the requisition and processing costs can run from $50 to $150.

Actra is a Santa Clara, Calif.-based joint venture of Netscape and General Electric Information Systems. Started a year ago, the company is, effectively, Netscape's E-commerce division.

ECXpert and the two OrderXperts are all new products and are aimed at the business-to-business commerce market. A beta for ECXpert is due out late in the second quarter. Pricing for the final product should start at $25,000 for a single-processor copy, Rike said. Betas for the higher-end OrderXpert Seller and Buyer are due, respectively, in the third and fourth quarters. They will start at $150,000 to $250,000 for two-processor models.

A beta of the 2.0 version of the Publishing System will be released in the third quarter, according to the company, while a beta for the 2.0 version of the Merchant System will arrive in the fourth quarter.

Later in the year, Actra will begin to incorporate push functionality through Netcaster, Netscape's upcoming push application, in these products. "This will be a critical differentiation," Rike said.

In the future, Actra also will add functionality so that third-party catalogs and configuration modules can be plugged into the systems.

In addition, Actra will release a toolkit for VARs aimed at making hosting sites easier. "Hosting is more common for business-to-consumer sites than business-to-business sites," Rike said.



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