BlueTie Mail Service Drops Fees

Looking to broaden the appeal of its hosted e-mail and calendaring services, BlueTie today began offering the collaboration services for free. The company also unveiled its new plan for generating revenue via partnerships with third-party business service providers.

'Featuretisements' Support Service

BlueTie has several patents pending on its new revenue-driving method, according to David Koretz, the company's founder, president and CEO. Users of its services will now have the option of booking flights with Orbitz and sending and receiving faxes through j2 Global Communications and completing those transactions, all without leaving the BlueTie applications.

Koretz dubs the integration of third-party services directly into his company's collaboration applications "featuretisements." BlueTie and its partners will share the revenue derived from users accessing the services which are designed to appeal to small to midsize businesses. He stressed the optional nature of the featuretisements and that BlueTie customers are under no obligation to use them.

In a nonbusiness application, a user noting a family member's birthday in their BlueTie calendaring application could connect directly with an online florist, arrange to have flowers delivered and see the delivery confirmation, all from within the BlueTie service. Koretz also talked about enabling businesses to place orders with office equipment suppliers from within BlueTie including the generating of purchase requests. In all, he'd like to offer 15 to 20 featuretisements, potentially including Web conferencing and small business credit cards.

Previously, BlueTie's fees for business use of its Web-based service started at $2.99 per month per employee for a mailbox and storage, and $7.99 per person per month for its full suite, which adds shared calendars, contacts, and shared files; instant messaging and task-lists.

Small Business Focus

"Hosted e-mail services firms have been searching for ways to turn e-mail from a cost center into a profit center," Mark Levitt, vice president of collaborative computing at IDC, wrote in an e-mail interview. So far, consumer portals Yahoo and Google have relied primarily on advertising revenue. But as competition for those advertising dollars grows, the IDC analyst expects "innovative ways" to monetize e-mail like BlueTie's approach will attract attention from other players in the Web services market.

Koretz sees BlueTie's primary competitor as Microsoft's on-premise Outlook and Exchange software, with his company firmly focused on the needs of smaller businesses. In fact, BlueTie serves two segments, he said--the very small business segment which typically employs between one and ten staffers and behaves much like consumers in its IT purchasing habits and the larger businesses with 11 to 250 employees who tend to be more technologically sophisticated.

BlueTie expects to have more than 1 million users of its services later this year, according to Koretz. Already, the company handles 1 billion-plus e-mail message monthly across multiple data centers. The featuretisements focus will be a U.S. initiative initially given that BlueTie's sales outside the U.S., accounting for around 40 percent of the company's total revenue, are driven by Internet service providers, he said.

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