Microsoft's rationale is simply that these companies build software that runs on PCs--lots and lots of PCs. Plus, lots of their transactions come from other software automatically, which is a hallmark of Microsoft's hope to popularize Web services written on its .Net platform, and the companies are integrating their back-end systems with Office, Microsoft's cash-cow desktop suite.
Mark Young, the general manager working with Microsoft's 500 largest independent software vendors, puts it very plainly: "Over time, eBay, Yahoo, and Amazon will be in Microsoft's partner program." If the latest version of Office is a more-attractive tool to work with eBay, then users are more likely to upgrade, he says.
Another recent move by Microsoft is likely to strengthen the ties between the software companies and the hubs of developers that Amazon and eBay are trying to build. Last month, Microsoft released test versions of five "Express" development tools and a free version of its SQL Server database for use by hobbyist programmers and students. It also included "starter kits" for writing interfaces to eBay; its company-owned electronic payment service, PayPal; and Amazon with the tools.
John Montgomery, director of product management in Microsoft's developer division, says many of those developers who write applications that interface with Amazon and eBay are hobbyist programmers, and getting them started on lightweight versions of Microsoft's development tools could pave the way for upgrades later on. The Express kits are expected to be priced at less than $100.
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