It must get lonely at the top. Sure, technology behemoths like Microsoft
So maybe it should come as no surprise that today, Microsoft and eBay joined hands to link the world's most popular home-office software with the world's biggest online marketplace. The cooperative effort will allow eBay's most prolific sellers to integrate their auction management and inventory via the Extensible Markup Language (XML) utilized in Microsoft's Office 2003 products, most notably the Excel spreadsheet and Web-authoring tool FrontPage.
The English translation is this: Businesses will be able to initiate or streamline their Web presence by using eBay as the back-end for virtual stores. OK, maybe that's not plain enough English. Here's an example:
Imagine you sell rechargeable batteries at a storefront in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and also through an eBay Web store. (Don't' laugh, I recently made a purchase from just such a place.) With the new tools, eBay still provides the huge and loyal customer base, the security, and the payment mechanism for your Web store. But instead of paying someone to spend hours submitting item listings one at a time and transcribing sales and shipping data back to your local spreadsheets or database, the information can be kept in a single file. It could upload new inventory and download online activity automatically, as well as compile valuable marketing metrics.
Similar functionality has been available for using software-development tools provided by the online auctioneer, but simpler integration with the ubiquitous Excel and FrontPage should encourage greater numbers of small enterprises to let eBay provide their commercial Internet infrastructure. Then the company can just sit back and do what it does best: making billions by collecting nickels and dimes.
eBay sits alongside Marvel, Amazon.com, Electronic Arts, and others in David Gardner's list of recommendations for Motley Fool Stock Advisor . Check it out, risk-free, for six months.
Fool contributor Seth Jayson promises to use his new rechargeable batteries for good, not evil. He has no stake in any company mentioned here.