As part of a long-term strategy to become the dominant order-fulfillment service associated with emerging Internet-commerce applications, United Parcel Service (UPS) is developing a series of APIs to better connect its logistics systems to applications from enterprise resource planning (ERP) and I-commerce vendors.
UPS has been working with IBM, Pandesic, SAP, Icat, Harbinger, Lotus, Microage, and others to create APIs to streamline the process of connecting the shipping giant to the companies' commerce systems, according to Mark Rhoney, vice president of corporate marketing at UPS.
The effort may lead to the creation of a standard API to connect UPS and I-commerce companies in the future.
"The possibility exists that if we get together with all these software companies then we'll see a de facto standard," Rhoney says.
Both IBM and Lotus have confirmed they are working with UPS on I-commerce solutions.
"We've been working with UPS on some projects," says John Patrick, vice president of Internet technology at IBM, in Armonk, New York. "They're taking net.commerce and linking it up with some other details."
"The APIs that we're building can go in three directions," Rhoney says. "One direction is that they could go into a merchant server-software package. The second direction is that it can head into the ERP solution. The last place it actually can go is, it can be downloaded and be put into our customer applications."
Analysts see UPS' move to create the APIs as a strong attempt to gather the lion's share of the logistics needs for the I-commerce market.
"Its sort of like getting inside the DNA of electronic commerce," says Bruce Richardson, vice president of research at Advanced Manufacturing Research, a consultancy in Boston. "They're really moving into the value-add of logistics companies."
The possibility of an I-commerce boom on the horizon is leading many companies to delve into software-application creation to keep their businesses connected to important I-commerce vendors, according to Chris Stevens, electronic-commerce analyst at the Aberdeen Group, in Boston.
"In order for some companies to get the channels that they need, they have to venture into the software business," Stevens says.
Regardless of how UPS' APIs are accepted and used, UPS has no plans to distribute any of the applications it creates for broader use, Rhoney said.
"We expect to do a lot with this - but not be a software company, but instead to be a channel to market," Rhoney said.
By providing APIs to I-commerce companies, UPS will also be solidifying its customer base while acquiring new customers from its competitors, according to Stevens.
"If you get UPS software already in [an I-commerce system], then you're probably going to use UPS," Stevens says.
United Parcel Service, in Atlanta, can be reached at http://www.ups.com.