Last month, we reviewed BlueTie.com, an impressive online e-mail and calendaring service (and alternative to Microsoft Exchange). We don't generally make a habit of covering the same product in such a short time frame, but we're making an exception in this case for one simple reason: After creating a new business model and integrating SMB-oriented services, the company now offers the entire BlueTie service for free.
What used to cost $2.99 per employee per month for business-class e-mail and $7.99 per person per month for the whole suite (e-mail, shared calendars, shared contacts, shared files, instant messaging and a task-list) now costs nothing. So where's the catch, you ask? According to David Koretz, Blue Tie's president and CEO, there isn't one.
"We wanted to find a way to monetize e-mail without ruining the customer experience. Our new revenue model lets us offer full-featured software for free while growing our business through partnerships with leading small business vendors."
The now-free-of-charge BlueTie service includes the following features:
- Business-class e-mail
- Domain name support (e.g., email@example.com
- Spam and virus protection
- Integrated shared calendars, files and contacts
- Supports up to 20 people per account
- 5GB of e-mail and file storage space per person (up from 1GB)
What's new, says Koretz, is that the company has integrated third-party products and services into the BlueTie application. Current partners include travel site Orbitz and e-mail marketing services company Constant Contact. If a small business owner needs to schedule a flight, he or she can do so within BlueTie.
The available flights appear overlaid on the calendar. Koretz says that clicking on the flight you want buys the ticket, adds the date, time and attaches an e-ticket to the calendar date in question. Partnering with Constant Contact lets you purchase e-mail and newsletter marketing services from within BlueTie.
"We unobtrusively offer features that simplify every day tasks," says Koretz. "All of the companies we partner with offer products and services that are highly relevant to small businesses."
The new and patent-pending revenue model which the company calls "Featuretisements" excludes any banner, contextual or behavioral ads. The company makes its money, says Koretz, by collecting a percentage from each purchase customers make, but it's collected from the service provider not the small business customer.
"Buying an air ticket or renting a car from Orbitz within BlueTie costs the same as it would if you bought directly from the Orbitz site," he says. "And using any of these business services is completely optional. You get BlueTie for free whether or not you ever take advantage of the integrated services."
Koretz says the company plans to add three or four more services in the next two-to-three weeks and will add even more partners, products and services over time, including credit cards, fax, yellow pages, flowers and gifts, VoIP, Web conferencing, search, mapping, weather, dining reservations, office supplies and on-demand printing.
Lauren Simonds is the managing editor of SmallBusinessComputing.com
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