Application hosting <BR>gets hotter

As more companies jump onto the application service provider bandwagon, some of the key players in the space are evolving their technologies and strategies to try to stay ahead of the curve.Corel Corp.

As more companies jump onto the application service provider bandwagon, some of the key players in the space are evolving their technologies and strategies to try to stay ahead of the curve.

Corel Corp. on Monday announced its strategy for hosting its WordPerfect Office 2000 suite over the Internet. Corel is relying on FutureLink as its application service provider (ASP). The Corel offering is in pilot phase, with rollout and pricing details expected early next year.

Microsoft Corp. returned the volley on Tuesday, pushing up its time frame for delivering a hosted, online version of Office 2000. Microsoft officials had said the company was aiming to provide a rental version of Office via various ASP partners some time in 2000.

On Tuesday, Microsoft took the wraps off its plans, unveiling its Office Online SKU. Like Corel's offering, Microsoft's Office Online is in pilot phase, with limited availability now slated for the end of this year, and broad availability scheduled for early 2000.

Microsoft officials said pricing and availability for Office Online will be determined by each of its partners.

The list of partners currently signed up to support Office Online includes British Telecommunications PLC; CenterBeam Inc.; Concentric Network; Digex Inc.; Equant; FutureLink; Interland Inc.; Interliant Inc.; Micron Electronics Inc.; MTT Mpowered, a division of Aliant; Qwest Communications International Inc.; TeleComputing Inc.; USinternetworking Inc.; Verio Inc.; and Winstar Communications Inc.

Microsoft officials claim that Office 2000 was designed with hosting in mind, and that a new version of the product is not needed to provide small and midsize businesses with access to Office and Office Server Extensions over the Internet. ASPs also may opt to provide Office Online users with others services, such as customization, document storage, instant updates and service releases, and access to Microsoft Exchange Server on the back end, Microsoft said.

When hosting's not enough
At the same time as Microsoft and Corel are taking their first steps in the hosting space, other companies are moving beyond the current rent-an-app ASP model.

ASP Corio on Tuesday announced that it's moving to a new "second generation" hosting model, which it is calling the Corio Intelligent Enterprise (CIE). Instead of providing users with access to a single-hosted application, CIE, the official name for Corio's underlying Orion framework, will provide resellers and customers with pre-integrated suites of hostable applications and associated business processes that are tailored for specific vertical markets.

Corio also announced Tuesday a number of alliances with application providers including Broadvision, CommerceOne and Cognos. Applications from these vendors will be integrated with those from PeopleSoft Inc. and Siebel Systems.

In addition, Corio said it has received an additional $30 million in financing from a number of strategic partners, including Lehman Brothers Venture Partners, Siebel, Concentric Network and Sun Microsystems Inc.

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