Microsoft starts selling products online

Microsoft has announced the opening of its first online store. Future versions of the online store will be localised for specific countries and resellers. starting with Canada. Shoppers can either be passed through to one of four Microsoft reseller Websites - or, weirdly, pay a 20-25% premium to buy direct from Microsoft itself.

Microsoft has announced the grand opening of its first online store, which will enable users in the United States to buy its products from one of four resellers or directly from Microsoft.

Future versions of the online store, located at http://shop.microsoft.com/, will be localised for specific countries and resellers, starting with Canada, according to a Microsoft statement. The Canadian site is expected to launch during the first quarter of next year, a spokeswoman for Microsoft's public relations firm said. She said it was too early to say which other countries would follow or when.

The four resellers from whom customers can purchase Microsoft merchandise are: Beyond.com, CDW, CompUSA and Insight. Additional resellers will be added over the next few months, Microsoft said.

When customers have selected the products they want to buy and are ready to order they choose a reseller to buy from and their "shopping basket" is transferred to that reseller's Web site for processing. Customers also can buy directly from Microsoft at the estimated retail price, which is generally 10% to 25% higher than the "street price" offered by resellers, Microsoft said.

Microsoft joins a growing list of computer companies that have expanded their sales to the Internet, including Apple Computer, Hewlett-Packard, Compaq Computer , Gateway 2000, and Dell Computer , who was an early leader in direct sales.

Microsoft's online store was built using Windows NT Server operating system, Microsoft SQL Server 7.0, Commerce Server, Site Server and Internet Information Server.

Visitors to the web site between March 8 and May 31 can enter a daily sweepstakes that provides the winner with US$500 towards the purchase of any Microsoft products.

Microsoft, based in Redmond, Washington, can be reached at +1-425-882-8080. The company's main web site is at http://www.microsoft.com/.

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