(MSFT) - Get Microsoft Corporation (MSFT) Report

will play a larger roll in the partnership between

Commerce One




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Commerce One's business-to-business software, which allows companies to buy materials from pencils to corrugated rubber over the Internet, already runs on Microsoft's

Windows NT


Windows 2000

operating systems. But now, the companies will work more closely to make jointly developed software from Commerce One and SAP run smoothly on Microsoft's new


platform, which is designed to run software that's used over the Internet, not just inside a company.

"The fundamental goal of the relationship is to make it easier for buyers and sellers to operate in e-marketplaces and for enterprises

or entire corporations to connect to them," said Andrew McCarthy, a Commerce One spokesman.

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Of course, making B2B software easy to run is one of the biggest hurdles facing the sector today. While companies are falling all over themselves to buy and sell things over the Web, they're finding that it can be complicated and difficult from a technology standpoint.

To make sure that software from Commerce One and SAP does work well on Microsoft's platform, the companies will also fund a joint development lab, based at Microsoft's Redmond, Wash., headquarters. And the expanded partnership is rounded out with a joint marketing agreement between Commerce One and Microsoft. Because Commerce One has increasingly

bundled its software with SAP through a partnership between those two companies, the marketing agreement will involve those joint products as well.

"We are delighted to have added Microsoft to this team because they widely broaden and accelerate our joint e-commerce efforts," Hasso Plattner, CEO of SAPMarkets, said in a statement. SAPMarkets is the SAP unit in the partnership with Commerce One. "The SAP, Commerce One and Microsoft alliance will be a very strong engineering collaboration."

But Eric Upin, an analyst at

Robertson Stephens

, said, "It is going to take a few quarters to weigh whether this changes the overall direction of Commerce One." (Upin rates Commerce One a buy, and his firm hasn't performed underwriting for Commerce One.)

Alliances and partnerships within B2B and e-commerce have been some of the

hottest things going lately.




i2 Technologies




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, for example, have formed an alliance that competes head-to-head against the Commerce One and SAP combo.