Up to this point, so much of B2B has been about buying, buying and more buying. But now, more people are focusing on selling.
, the consumer-focused Web-software company that's been
retooling itself as a B2B player, unveiled a big deal with
Monday. BroadVision will provide i2 with software that focuses on the suppliers in business-to-business marketplaces, or places online where companies buy and sell goods.
Monday's deal is a clear victory for the smaller BroadVision, which has seen its shares get pummeled
along with the rest of B2B lately. Its stock surged 20% Monday as B2B stocks staged a rally and investors learned of its i2 deal. i2's 600 salespeople will now hock BroadVision's software as part of an "integrated" software package being pushed by the two companies.
What the deal means for i2 Technologies, and for its alliance with
, is a little less clear.
Earlier this year, those three companies announced a partnership, which they call
The Alliance, to market their B2B products together. But the strength of that alliance has been
increasingly questioned. As securities analysts start to whisper more and more about the potential foundering of that alliance, the BroadVision deal with i2 likely will exacerbate those concerns.
First, the basics. Monday's announcement is a stark contrast to what B2B has meant to date. When you hear about B2B software or Internet marketplaces that allow companies to buy products and supplies online, they usually focus on the buyers of products. Their goal is to get companies to buy their materials and supplies online.
B2B has focused much less on bringing the suppliers of those products to the table. As a result, many Internet marketplaces have suffered a lack of product offerings, and many software packages only let companies buy mundane supplies like office products and furniture.
That's slowly changing, as more and more B2B companies focus on the supply end of the equation, too. The announcement Monday follows a similar one a few weeks back, when i2 rival
said it would hook up with
to meet supply-side needs.
"The BroadVision relationship will allow us to solve the other half of the equation, that's quite honestly being ignored," i2 President Greg Brady said in a conference call Monday. "Or maybe it's not being ignored, but there's no one to do it."
Actually, someone is trying to do it -- i2's partner Ariba. In August, Ariba finalized its acquisition of
, which Ariba said would add to its sourcing capabilities, or the process of connecting buyers with suppliers. While SupplierMarkets, as its name implies, addresses the sell side of the equation to some extent, it apparently wasn't enough for i2's liking.
"What our relationship with Ariba has not done is a good job on the sell side," Brady said. "There's a real interesting phenomenon happening in the marketplace, where we're asking suppliers to respond to
requests from buyers, when their systems are incapable of responding to those requests."
An Ariba spokeswoman didn't immediately return a call seeking a comment.
Two weeks ago, after i2, Ariba and IBM
lost a customer, there were concerns about The Alliance's strength. That talk was heightened last week when
, a small B2B company, beat Ariba for a marketplace in the freight shipping industry.
Still, Brady says his company's partnership with Ariba is strong. He played down the BroadVision deal as "complementary" to that relationship. But i2's willingness to seek out other partners to address other aspects of B2B suggests the Alliance doesn't have all the answers to B2B, which has been its claim.