International Business Machines Corp. announced a merchant server last week that it said is the first to use the Secure Electronic Transactions protocol for MasterCard and Visa payments.
IBM said it would ship the second-generation merchant server-the kind of computer that merchants use to fulfill on-line orders and to process payments-on May 30.
IBM put its first merchant server on the market in November, using it to usher such customers as L.L. Bean into the electronic commerce age. The new version has features like an "intelligent catalogue" function that eases the process of locating merchandise.
"This provides one of the most comprehensive servers for buying and selling on the Internet today," said Karl Salnoske, general manager of Internet application solutions for IBM's Internet division. He said IBM plans to continue following "the current pace" of frequent upgrades and enhancements to its merchant server.
Mr. Salnoske said the IBM merchant server, which the company calls Net.Commerce, incorporates a preliminary version-called 0.9-of SET, the security protocol published last year by MasterCard, Visa, and several technology providers, including IBM.
IBM's merchant server will incorporate the official SET version 1.0 when it is released June 1, Mr. Salnoske said.
Other providers of Internet commerce systems, including Microsoft Corp., Netscape Communications Corp., Oracle Corp., and Open Market Inc., have said their products will be SET-compliant once the protocol is in final form.
Microsoft, in particular, has shown early strength in this market. The merchant server it announced in October has been chosen by dozens of merchants and endorsed by several large banks, including BankAmerica Corp. and Wells Fargo & Co.
At a press conference in Atlanta, several of IBM's customers had praise for its server, among them United Parcel Service, Aero-Marine Products, and Borders Books and Music.
Steve Mott, senior vice president of electronic commerce/new ventures at MasterCard, also rhapsodized: "We're starting to see a pattern here that one particular company is starting to knock all the bowling pins down in electronic commerce."
The new version of Net.Commerce will cost the same as the old one-$4,995 for a basic version, with free upgrades for existing customers-and will include more business-to-business applications and sophisticated search tools.
"With support for SET now included, Net.Commerce is the only full- service merchant server that provides customers with this globally accepted security," said IBM's Mr. Salnoske.