Netscape Communications Corp yesterday announced it is taking its partnership with French national telecom carrier France Telecom into the business e-commerce arena by extending their joint offerings to include business-to-business services and development of extranet portals. Netscape’s business manager for telcos and internet service providers in Europe, Ken Hart, said the two companies began collaborating in e-commerce some 18 months ago, which resulted, early last year, in the launch of a hosted intranet service for small and medium-sized companies. This means small companies don’t have to make an investment on servers and IT staff in order to have their own intranet; they just outsource it to France Telecom, Hart explained. He added that the service currently has some 300 customers and signs up an average of two new ones a day. Besides the small- and medium-sized enterprise (SME) customers, the service has also been sold to companies such as Ford Motor Co’s French subsidiary, and to the European Commission in Brussels. Now the two have taken a further step into business-to-business e-commerce, as well as developing the ability to extend companies’ legacy EDI networks into intranet/extranet secure environments, said Hart. For France Telecom, the move into what is being called WebEDI represents the ability to upsell their EDI customers into new e-commerce offerings, as well as cross-selling their SME customers into more products, he explained. Effectively, this means building a trade community for the corporate clientele, who can thus further automate processes such as procurement. For Netscape, the deal means it will be putting its products on the corporate hubs of the new WebEDI networks, integrating them with SAP and other business application suites, as well as on France Telecom’s network, so that the SMEs who are suppliers to the corporates can also get involved.