As if it didn’t already have enough to do, Microsoft reportedly considered launching an e-commerce rival to Amazon and eBay.
Known as “Project Brazil”—because that’s the country that surrounds most of the Amazon and its tributaries, most likely—the e-store would have featured a variety of retailers and brands, according to The Wall Street Journal. But Microsoft killed the project for unknown reasons, leaving it up to the blogosphere to debate whether such an effort could have succeeded.
E-commerce sales topped $1 trillion in 2012, according to eMarketer, with North America responsible for $365 billion of that amount. That makes the segment a tempting target for any company capable of launching an online storefront. However, anyone engaging in such an endeavor would have to face down two well-entrenched giants—Amazon and eBay—and negotiate deals with dozens of vendors. In other words, breaking into the segment in a big way would take a ton of work, with no guarantee of a profit—or even anything other than failure and humiliation—at the end of it all.
Microsoft already operates a shopping portal through its main Website, which presumably does a brisk business in Windows PCs and other hardware; it also runs the Windows Store, an online storefront for apps and software, and bricks-and-mortar Microsoft Stores around the country.
Operating a broader storefront may have proven more problematic, however, as it might have forced Microsoft to sell products that compete with its brand—Apple laptops and Sony PlayStations, for example. That probably wouldn’t have sat well with Microsoft executives, even if such efforts ultimately fueled the company’s bottom line.
Meanwhile, e-commerce continues to evolve, embracing everything from advanced analytics to alternate means of paying for goods. In addition to the “traditional” credit cards, retailers are adding bank transfers, direct debits, Cash on Delivery (CoD), and other options popular in countries and regions such as Russia and the Middle East. “In 2013, it will be less common to see global eCommerce organizations of any type only offering consumers the option to pay via credit or debit card,” Forrester analyst Zia Daniell Wigder wrote in a December 2012 posting about the future of e-commerce, “and increasingly common to see a wide variety of payment options.”
But it seems as if Microsoft will sit all those developments out.