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Vision Factory sees catalogs

And they're off! Vision Factory ships Cat@log Direct tools for creating online catalogs, marking the start of the race to provide electronic catalog tools.

Signaling the beginning of competition over software tools for creating electronic catalogs, Denmark's Vision Factory has begun shipping its Cat@log Direct software tools for creating Web-based online catalogs.

The software builds a Web storefront by pulling data from any Oracle, Informix Software, Microsoft SQL Server, Sybase, or ODBC-compliant database to generate Web pages on the fly. Using existing databases allows catalog information to be changed quickly.

"We have made a tool specifically for electronic commerce on the World Wide Web," said Mogens Nielsen, Vision Factory's president. The company is opening a Silicon Valley office for sales and customer support.

The software will be marketed to Internet service providers, ad agencies, and Web professionals who create high-volume e-commerce sites. It comes in two parts: $1,950 for Cat@log Builder to create sites on Windows 95 and NT, and Cat@log Manager, for publishing the site to Windows NT, priced from $2,300. Solaris versions start at $4,250.

At that price level, Vision Factory will compete with software tools from iCat, which offers templates of catalog pages for its users. Vision Factory expects its customers to build their own templates for Cat@log Builder. iCat is expected to announce an upgrade to its catalog software next month.

Nielsen said Vision Factory's products are designed to run on major Web merchant servers from Microsoft, Netscape, and IBM. It will work with payment systems from First Virtual Holdings, CyberCash, and VeriFone. The company also is in negotiations with Open Market to integrate with its back-end processing software.

The product went into beta testing in November with 25 customers, including ad agency BBDO Denmark which used the software to create a catalog for Danish consumer electronics marketer FONA.