No one can claim the Internet is a passing fad anymore based on the number of software companies porting their products to the Web.
A slew of vendors, including such high-profile names as Baan, Oracle, and Hyperion, are making announcements in the coming weeks about new versions of their products tailored for use over corporate intranets or across the Web.
"The Web is becoming just another communication resource on your desktop," said Geoffrey Bock, analyst at the Patricia Seybold Group in Boston. "Most business users have come to depend on the Web as a reliable network business resource. The Internet is approaching the same level of reliability as other kinds of public utilities."
Baan's front office division Aurum Software today announced it is going to embed in its products ActiveTouch's Web application server. The embedded server will allow Aurum to use the Web as a collaboration tool within its customer relationship management software.
"We foresee significant interest in customer care [software] that fully engages users with real-time service delivery over the Web," said Hugh Bishop, analyst at the Aberdeen Group in Boston. With the embedded engine, "Aurum will provide organizations with tools that can manage real-time interaction--with customers, colleagues, or partners--more efficiently and profitably over the Internet, intranet, and extranets."
The idea is to let Aurum users schedule and manage meetings, share and edit documents, view and demonstrate applications, troubleshoot software, and complete interactive forms all over the Internet through a standard Web browser.
Bock predicts that within two years, the Internet will be viewed in the same light as the telephone system as a real-time communication tool. He said the Aurum and ActiveTouch announcement is evidence that vendors are starting to eye this trend as viable technology and useful to their product strategies.
Hyperion, which provides some of the financial functionality for Baan, today announced it is shipping Web Gateway 2.0, a new platform for deploying Web-based financial applications.
The gateway is the underlying tool that allows companies to design financial analysis applications that can be used across the Internet. The product is particularly useful to companies with offices spread out around the country, or with multiple divisions. By putting financial and budgeting analysis tools on the Internet, each office can access the software on a central server and do its work before submitting reports across the Internet to the home office.
Also rushing to the Web are database tools. Oracle announced today the beta version of Project WebDB. Project WebDB is a tool for building dynamic HTML forms, charts, reports, and menus on the Oracle8i database and for building self-service application Web sites.
The product is meant as a simple way for companies to create intranet Web pages. The product guides users through the process so that most anyone in a corporation can use it.
Datawatch, in Wilmington, Massachusetts, is rolling out an enterprise-level reporting tool called Monarch/ES. Until now, Datawatch had been known for its departmental-level report writing and data mining tools. But thanks to the Internet, the firm is now stretching that technology to more corners of the corporation.
Datawatch is using the Web to extend Monarch/ES's report storage and delivery system so that reports can be retrieved through a browser and sent to others in a company using the Internet or standard MAPI email. The idea is to streamline corporate reporting processes by eliminating much of the paper shuffling that now takes place in businesses.
The product starts at about $20,000 and it runs on Windows NT 4.0.