This week, MarketLive has announced that it is offering its eCommerce Platform-as-a-Service on Facebook, Google Docs adds new functionality -- again, Microsoft research shows SMBs offer more mobile functionality than large enterprises and SMB channel partners need vendor support.

E-Commerce on Facebook

Facebook looks set to dig itself deeper into the SMB space with the release of MarketLive’s e-Commerce Platform-as-a-Service, enabling merchants to create e-Commerce stores within merchant-administered pages on Facebook.

So it’s not a Facebook release, but if it does what it says it can do, then a lot more businesses are going to be looking to Facebook to beef up their sales.

The MarketLive Social Store for Facebook allows retailers to reach millions of Facebook users, convert them into buyers and build strong relationships that drive repeat sales and improve customer loyalty.

According to MarketLive, by now over 50% of the U.S. population has a Facebook page, and with MarketLive, merchants will be able to sell to them by making it possible for shoppers to not only “Like” and share their opinions about products, but to buy them without leaving the Facebook environment.

The MarketLive Social Store for Facebook is integrated with the MarketLive Intelligent Commerce Platform and delivers a branded and flexible commerce experience, including product catalog information, promotions and discounts, shopping cart and checkout functionality.

It is managed through the MarketLive administration console and uses built-in Facebook widgets that support social shopping.

Who’s Viewing Your Google Docs?

The inimitable Google Docs and Apps progression continues, making both an increasingly attractive option for SMBs that are looking for collaboration functionality, but not the price that they may have to pay with suites such as Office 365.

While Google Docs still can’t really compete with Office -- yet -- every week it just gets better, adding function on top of function. This week there were a number of new improvements, not least of which is the ability to see who is reading your page and how many people have read the Google Doc that you have shared.

By clicking the Discussions button and then the Document stats link, you can now see the 7-day activity of your doc. Simple as that.

It's also added a discussion pane that now shows the selected text for each comment thread, making it easy to figure out which part of the document each discussion pertained to. It's given the pane a visual tune-up. For a full list of the new updates, have a look at the Google Docs blog.

If you’ve ever had the suspicion that no one is paying attention to the docs you share, then this functionality will either confirm or disabuse you of that suspicion.

SMBs Are the Most Mobile

In case you weren’t aware of it already, SMBs are more flexible that large enterprises, and to ensure that they stay that way, most cite the availability of mobile applications as essential for their business, according to new research by Microsoft across Europe.

The study, commissioned by Microsoft and conducted by Vanson Bourne, interviewed 1,500 workers across 15 European countries on their attitudes toward flexible working.

There are a lot of different findings here, but significantly, half of the people participating in the study said they lacked access to the most basic technology tools that would enable them to work away from the office. Among the findings are:

  • While about one-quarter of employees in small businesses (with fewer than 50 employees) regularly work away from the office, only 9% of staff in companies with 500 or more employees do so.
  • Small organizations are the most likely to allow flexible working, with more than two-thirds doing so; one-third have a policy and technology support in place.
  • One-quarter of employees in large organizations cannot get access to the technology and systems away from the office.

One of the conclusions of the research is that businesses face two challenges: Ensuring that people have access to the right kind of technology with IT support and creating a culture that trusts staff to be productive away from the office.

While only management can create a working culture, there seems little reason now, even in terms of pricing, why mobile technologies should not be made available. If you’re interested in more on this, check it out here.

SMB Channel Partners Need Vendors' Help

Finally, some more research, this time from Techaisle (news, site), an SMB IT market research and industry analyst organization, and showing in practical terms how developed the cloud computing market has become in recent months.

According to the research, 38% of VARs, ISVs and SPs currently offer SMB cloud computing solutions. Another 11% plan to begin offering cloud computing solutions in 2011.

While 12% offer all four types of cloud computing services, namely, Infrastructure & Platform (IaaS/PaaS),Communications (CaaS), Business Productivity (SaaS), and Industry Vertical, the percentage is expected to grow in response to SMBs' wish to obtain all services from the same channel partner.

Over 50% of SMBs are looking for cloud-based industry vertical solutions, but currently only 28% of cloud computing SMB channel partners offer them.

Techaisle expects this gap to narrow over the next two years as channel partners gain knowledge and experience about SMB wants and needs, vendors create an educational platform and SMBs also find relevancy in horizontal cloud applications.

Among the cloud computing applications, CRM and email services are the most offered current cloud computing solutions, while storage, backup and hosted software platforms are the most planned offerings. On average, a channel partner currently offers 4.3 cloud solutions to SMBs. Among those that plan to offer cloud computing, they have aspirations of offering a minimum of 4.0 cloud solutions. Interested in more?