Microsoft will open a trial version of an online store (code-named "NITRO") in April, and plans to be offering a full-featured online commerce site by August. NITRO, which stands for "New Interactive Technology for Resellers Online", will allow customers to buy any Microsoft product online; it will also place a "Buy Now" button on any Web page that features one of their products.

"Anyplace in microsoft.com where there are products talked about, there will be a buy now button," said Neil Farnsworth, the general manager of business development for the end-user customer unit of Microsoft "When a customer clicks on a buy now button, they will be taken to a Commerce \[Server\] 3.0 shopping cart."

Microsoft is being careful about its relationship with resellers, however. Every time someone purchases a product at the Microsoft store online, they will be shown a list of other places to buy it for less.

"Bill \[Gates\] has said many times that he would not want to do what resellers do for any price," Farnsworth said. "Distribution of software is one thing that we are not good at. Right now, we're getting 1.5 million people a day coming through our site and we have no idea who they are and no idea if they are buying our products, and that's a problem for us and our resellers.