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Microsoft’s Small Business + site, launched last week, is the latest step in the software giant’s strategy to engage small to midsize businesses on the Web and connect them to partners.

The site, a suite of free, personalized online resources and technical support, and Microsoft Small Business Center are designed to draw interested customers and deliver them to Microsoft partners to hook business opportunities, Microsoft executives said.

“Partners will remain the go-to IT persons for customers,” said Cynthia Bates, Microsoft’s general manager of the small-business division, but the Web will get them there.

“Small Business + furthers our strategy to engage with our small business customers in a way that is meaningful to them,” Bates told The Channel Insider.

“Building on the foundation of the Small Business Center, Small Business + provides the personalized resources and technical support that is important to their business. Based on the information they provide when registering, we use that information to provide them with customized data based on what products they use, etc.”

Click here to read more about Microsoft’s channel plans for its small business offerings.

“We also will further efforts to help small businesses quickly and easily identify resources and technology partners that can support them,” she said, “and will continue to prominently display partners on resources including SBC, Small Business + and the Small Business Specialist Community.”

Small Business + offers participants customized content, based on their registration, such as a training library and small business help desk to answer questions.

Users may also access personalized tech support from Small Business Quick Advice, a dedicated support resource using live-chat for basic troubleshooting and Small Business Expert Help, a combination of chat and phone support and service packages to answer more difficult questions for a fee.

Small Business Center saw a 60 percent spike in December 2005 over December 2004.

On both sites, users are directed to a partner locator for service and sales, where, Microsoft’s 1,000 Small Business Specialists, a specialty certification for VARs with a demonstrated proficiency in the SMB, are given a priority.