Microsoft, VerticalNet and Air Products Deliver “First of Its Kind” E-Business Solution

REDMOND, Wash., HORSHAM, Pa. and ALLENTOWN, Pa., July 27, 2000 — Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq
), VerticalNet, Inc. (Nasdaq
) and Air Products and Chemicals, Inc. (NYSE
“APD” ) today announced their plan to launch a unique e-commerce pavilion based on the Microsoft® .NET Platform and designed to serve the worldwide gases and chemicals industry. The
“first of its kind”
solution will provide Air Products’ sales network, including distributors, with a quick, convenient, consistent and cost-effective online vehicle to streamline sales and marketing efforts, generate sales leads and enable online transactions.

This kind of unified approach will provide Air Products with the following: a major presence across 32 of VerticalNet’s 57 industry-specific communities, a pavilion that centralizes access to the company’s information and provides a mechanism to direct customers to local distributors, and informational storefronts or e-commerce centers complete with product catalogs and transactional capabilities for its distributor network.

VerticalNet’s extensive community and e-commerce architecture is based on the Microsoft .NET Platform, including Microsoft Windows® 2000 Server, Microsoft SQL Server™ and Microsoft Site Server Commerce Edition. In addition, the pavilion will be linked to Microsoft bCentral™
, Microsoft’s Web-based small-business portal for small and growing companies.

“This association extends our relationship with VerticalNet to offer bCentral customers access to large B2B marketplaces,”
said Kathleen Hebert, vice president of small business at Microsoft.
“It is an early demonstration of how the Microsoft .NET Platform will be the technology of choice for e-commerce.”

“For Air Products, this effort will result in a strong intermediation strategy for our distributors, enabling a fragmented channel to quickly grow market presence, increase efficiencies, and retain and expand its customer base,”
said David J. Ashworth, director of e-business at Air Products.
“We chose VerticalNet over other business models because of its unique ability to reach a broad cross-section of industries simultaneously.”
Ashworth added,
“This initiative is illustrative of the company’s commitment to its distributors and complements Air Products’ other dot.corp initiatives designed to reach new customers and generate sales leads.”

“The scalable and extensible design of this unique initiative underscores the value of VerticalNet’s business model by complementing and enhancing the existing sales channels of corporations,”
said Blair LaCorte, senior vice president of Strategy and E-Commerce for VerticalNet.
“As a result of our alliance with Microsoft, we are able to provide Air Products’ sales network, including distributors, with a comprehensive e-commerce strategy that is low-risk, effective, adaptable and quickly deployable.”

In March 2000, VerticalNet and Microsoft announced the completion of their strategic alliance to bring distributors closer together by creating open markets and exchanges. Air Products’ use of storefronts, e-commerce centers, and the pavilion for its own marketing and sales efforts – and those of its distributors – is the first collaboration between Microsoft, VerticalNet and a customer in implementing this online program.

About Air Products and Chemicals, Inc.

Air Products and Chemicals, Inc. (NYSE
) ( ) established its online presence in early 1996. The company’s e-business initiatives, recently recognized by InternetWeek as one of the top 100 e-business programs in the United States, are focused on connecting its customers to all the information they need, all the time.

About VerticalNet, Inc.

VerticalNet, Inc. (Nasdaq
) ( ) owns and operates 57 industry-specific Web sites designed as online business-to-business communities, known as vertical trade communities. These vertical trade communities provide users with comprehensive sources of information, interaction and e-commerce. They are grouped into the following industry sectors: Communications, Energy, Environment/Utilities, Financial Service, Food/Packaging, Foodservice/Hospitality, Healthcare, High Tech, Industrial, Manufacturing/Discrete, Manufacturing/Process, Public Sector, Science and Services.

Additionally, VerticalNet provides auctions, catalogs, bookstores, career centers and other e-commerce capabilities horizontally across its communities with sites such as Industry, and Professional VerticalNet’s NECX  Exchange provides an exchange for the electronic components industry. Through Tradeum technology and strategic alliances, VerticalNet is focused on providing comprehensive end-to-end e-commerce solutions.

VerticalNet International leverages the Company’s leadership position to create global Internet B2B marketplaces, offering products and services internationally and partnering with companies that have strong local presence and domain expertise. VerticalNet has launched international joint ventures: VerticalNet Europe B.V. with British Telecommunications plc and Internet Capital Group, and VerticalNet Japan with SOFTBANK E-COMMERCE CORP.

About bCentral

The Microsoft bCentral online business service is a Web-based portal created specifically to meet the needs of small and growing companies. It provides a comprehensive, affordable and integrated suite of services to help companies move their business forward on the Web. The bCentral service focuses on three core areas:

  • Getting a business started online (includes connecting to the Web and building a business Web site)

  • Promoting and marketing a business online

  • Managing a business more effectively

The Microsoft .NET Platform

The Microsoft .NET Platform is built on public Internet standards and protocols, with new tools and services that integrate computing and communications in new ways. The .NET Platform is explicitly designed to enable the rapid development and integration of Web services, enabling the orchestration of Web services and legacy applications into powerful, flexible solutions, and representing the evolution of the Windows DNA programming model. In addition to Windows 2000, the current generation of the Windows .NET Platform includes SQL Server 2000, Commerce Server 2000, BizTalk™ Server 2000, Application Center 2000, Host Integration Server 2000, Exchange 2000 and the Visual Studio® 6.0 development system: all best-of-breed products that benefit from widespread support by third-party developers.

About Microsoft

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq
) is the worldwide leader in software, services and Internet technologies for personal and business computing. The company offers a wide range of products and services designed to empower people through great software – any time, any place and on any device.

This announcement contains forward-looking statements that involve risks and uncertainties, as well as statements that are preceded by, followed by or include the words
“believes,” “plans,” “intends”
“expects,” “anticipates”
or similar expressions. For such statements, VerticalNet claims the protection of the safe harbor for forward-looking statements contained in the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Actual results may differ materially from the results predicted, and reported results should not be considered as an indication of future performance. Factors that could cause actual results to differ from those contained in the forward-looking statements include matters relating to technology, performance and operation; rapid technological and market changes; potential intellectual property and licensing issues; as well as those factors set forth in the Company’s Annual Report on form 10-K for the year ended Dec. 31, 1999, and the Company’s Quarterly Report on form 10-Q for the quarter ended March 31, 2000, both of which have been filed with the SEC.

Microsoft, Windows, bCentral, BizTalk and Visual Studio are either registered trademarks or trademarks of Microsoft Corp. in the United States and/or other countries.

VerticalNet and NECX are registered trademarks and/or trademarks of Vert Tech LLC in the United States and/or other countries.

The names of actual companies and products mentioned herein may be the trademarks of their respective owners.

Note to editors: If you are interested in viewing additional information on Microsoft, please visit the Microsoft Web page at on Microsoft’s corporate information pages.

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