If you believe that anything promoting credit card-based electronic commerce over the Internet is good for banks, then this alliance, one of many in the electronic commerce arena this year, is as good as any. Basking Ridge, NJ-based AT&T and Hewlett-Packard crafted a multi-phase partnership to develop products and services that aid EC through merchant-hosted and outsourcing options.

AT&T and HP will integrate HP's Domain Enterprise Servers with AT&T's SecureBuy service to let merchants maintain Web sites at their own locations while outsourcing back-office functions, such as processing secure credit-card transactions over the Web, to AT&T. For merchants that primarily need an outsourced solution, AT&T will provide its Easy World Wide Web and SecureBuy services; HP adds systems for front-end Web publishing and communication to the off-premise network. Cooperating with the alliance are iCAT Corp., provider of a suite of software products for creating Web catalogs, and Open Market Inc., a provider of Internet commerce software. AT&T-HP, it appears, invited everybody to the party but banks, though the snub may not mean much. Notes Meridien Research director Octavio Marenzi, "This alliance focuses on the front end. Ultimately, the transactions are going to be processed by a bank, so this isn't a threat. As far as banks are concerned, the more electronic commerce, the better." A.Radding

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