A group of prominent technology companies is assembling a package of Internet services to support business-to-business commerce.
The companies, which call their partnership Global Commerce Alliance, are Sun Microsystems Inc., GE Capital Services Co., Total System Services Inc., and Global Commerce Systems Inc.
Emphasizing their open computing framework and reliance on Sun's Java programming language, the companies described their initiative as an alternative to Transpoint, the Denver-based bill presentment venture of Microsoft Corp., First Data Corp., and Citigroup.
Each Global Commerce Alliance member brings its own specialty, aiming to provide a comprehensive system for buying and selling supplies on-line.
The alliance is courting banks, touting the advantages its system offers to corporate customers.
The services these companies are offering use purchasing card systems as the central vehicle for conducting transactions and conveying information. The alliance says the system gives companies far more data than existing systems about their purchasing habits and needs.
This "total solution" combines "payment, procurement, (bill) presentment, and processing," said Geoffrey S. L. Shaw, president and chief executive officer of Global Commerce Systems in Boulder, Colo.
Corporate customers will be able to "automate the business supply chain" and gain efficiencies through the volume of data accompanying transactions, Mr. Shaw said.
Global Commerce Systems brings to the alliance software products that help companies manage consumer and commercial credit card accounts. Total System Services is a leader in card processing power, and GE Capital is the alliance's issuer of MasterCard cards for travel, purchasing, and fleet management.
Sun Microsystems contributes the highly flexible Java programming language, which runs programs without regard to operating platform.
"Java is a technology that has enabled so much of this to happen so fast," Mr. Shaw said. "That is the language and the core technology that is enabling these previously disparate components to come together."
Masood Jabbar, president of computer systems at Sun Microsystems of Palo Alto, Calif., said the joint offering "not only collapses the cycle time (for supply purchasing), it provides very rich information that enables companies to compete."
One company already using the alliance's system is Giddings & Lewis Inc., a supplier of automation products and machine tools in Fond du Lac, Wis. Mr. Shaw said customers including Boeing Co. can "order replacement parts in real time" and use the accompanying transaction data to "establish an ordering strategy."
Banks are "particularly well suited" to resell these services to corporate customers, Mr. Shaw said. The alliance gives banks "the opportunity to reintermediate market sectors" like bill presentment and to "be one of the principal distribution channels for the commercial constituencies they serve."
Robert L. Hall, a Sun vice president of sales, said the alliance's "tool kit" gives financial institutions "a chance to offer better service and a new generation of electronic commerce" to corporate customers.
Transpoint and Checkfree Corp. of Atlanta compete in bill presentment. Executives in the Global Commerce Alliance specified Transpoint as their chief competitor.
Mr. Jabbar of Sun Microsystems, a Microsoft nemesis, said the key to the alliance's technology system is "that it is not exclusionary. What you have from the competitors is a very exclusionary system-it's binary."
Other organizations, including ones that offer services similar to the founding companies, will be invited to join the alliance. The coalition was "the natural offspring of strategic alliances we had with each of these companies," said Mr. Shaw of Global Commerce Systems.
He said the companies' products integrate easily with existing systems at banks and other companies, so there would be no "rip and replace" of computer equipment.
Contrasting the alliance's methods to those of Transpoint, Mr. Shaw said: "This is about enabling the (transaction) data to live in its natural home, as opposed to a consolidation model: 'Send us your data, and we'll batch it and send it to your customers.'"
Jeffrey R. Dye, senior vice president of GE Capital corporate expense management services, said the alliance "integrates our payment products and services with other industry leaders' to provide an increasingly rich trade-cycle management and operations capability to the industries we all serve."
Daniel Joseph Charron, group vice president of Total System, said financial institutions have been asking for such enhanced reporting information "since day one."