Microsoft software to be sold over Net in US

US customers may soon be able to buy Microsoft software over the Internet, but their overseas counterparts will have to wait a bit, according to a company official.

Today Microsoft will announce guidelines for US resellers and distributors to sell its software over the Internet. It also expects several of its major channel partners to announce their plans to sell Microsoft products over the Internet.

Outside the US, international sales region managers will decide when to start World Wide Web distribution, and no dates have been set, the official says.

"We will start in the US and shortly thereafter roll it out in the rest of the world where it makes sense," says Johan Liedgren, director of Microsoft's channel policies.

The US announcements will be made during the Selling and Distributing Software Over Electronic Networks conference in San Francisco. The guidelines cover customer support, sales reporting, and other sales and security issues.

Many of Microsoft's customers are already on the Web, Liedgren says. But there are several barriers to Web-based software distribution outside the US, Liedgren says, such as low home PC penetration, high telecommunications costs and lack of widespread Internet access.

Microsoft has been experimenting with Web-based software distribution over the past six months, working with CyberSource and Portland Software, Liedgren says. While it can take 90 minutes to download something like Microsoft Word over a 28.8Kbit/s modem, Microsoft expects higher-bandwidth connections to become more common over the next year in the US, Liedgren says.

Web sales are another way for channel partners to reach customers, Liedgren says. Microsoft has no plans to cut out the channel middlemen, nor does it see Web sales eclipsing retail sales any time in the near future, Liedgren says.

By the end of 1997, Microsoft expects about 10% of its packaged software to be sold over the Web, Liedgren says. International Data predicts that by the year 2000 only 5% to 7% of the US$187 billion worldwide packaged software market will be software sold over the Web.

"This is just going to be another option to the end user," Liedgren says.

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