November 14, 2011, 3:29 PM

Microsoft sloughs off its e-commerce technology

New versions of the Commerce Server platform will be developed by Ascentium.

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Microsoft Corp. is transferring future development of its e-commerce platform product, Microsoft Commerce Server, to Ascentium, a digital technology and services agency. Microsoft Commerce Server is used by six retailers among the Internet Retailer Top 500, making it the tenth most commonly deployed e-commerce platform among the Top 500.

According to a preparedd statement from Microsoft and a notice on the Ascentium web site today, Microsoft will continue to honor “mainstream” and extended support of Microsoft Commerce Server 2009 through 2014 and 2019, respectively. Microsoft also says it will continue to include Commerce Server 2009 on its official price list until July 2012, and that “both companies are working closely together to facilitate a smooth transition plan with customers.”

The move to transition to Ascentium makes sense, says Brian Walker, an e-commerce technology analyst with Forrester Research Inc. To succeed in selling an e-commerce technology platform requires extensive support services, and Microsoft has not invested heavily in this area, he writes in a blog posting. Moreover, Cactus Software, a company recently acquired by Ascentium, has been serving as an outside development team for Commerce Server for years and “is the most knowledgeable team in the market today implementing and supporting Commerce Server,” Walker says.

In addition, Microsoft and Ascentium have a deep relationship, with Microsoft having assisted the transfer of Commerce Server technology developed by Cactus to Ascentium, Walker says.

But Ascentium has its work cut out for it in making Commerce Server a more competitive offering following years of little innovation in the platform, Walker says. As retailers have recognized a need to deploy more feature-rich e-commerce platforms that can support how consumers shop across multiple channels, including mobile and social networks, they’re more likely to look beyond Commerce Server to other platforms built in Java and Internet-hosted software-as-a-service technology environments, he adds.

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