IBM released on Tuesday a tool that it says will let businesspeople, rather than professional programmers, build their own Web applications.
Called the the Mashup Starter Kit, it is an updated version of QEDWiki tool. The starter kit lets people view and access Web information and company databases in order to build mash-ups--applications that combine information from different sources in a single screen.
IBM, which sells to corporate customers, sees a lot of potential in giving businesspeople the ability to build their own applications via tapping into various information sources.
For example, an insurance agent could combine internal rate information with weather forecasts in order to build a model on how much to charge a customer.
The Mashup Starter Kit includes a server component called the Mashup Hub, which is designed to make it easier to view data stored in corporate databases. The QEDWiki tool is the visual front-end for accessing that information and combining it.
When working with customers, IBM found that access to content was at least as important as the front-end assembly tool, said Rod Smith, first president of emerging technology at IBM.
"The idea is that the Hub is like a Web 2.0 Web site where people can register feeds, rate feeds--the things are inside the catalog," Smith said. "Business people not only wanted to do mash-ups, they want to have more control of information, like a freshness of it for instance."
Companies can customize the feeds that users can access using PHP, a scripting language that the application is written in.
The product is still in preview mode and available for download at IBM's Alphaworks emerging technology site. It will be generally available in the first quarter of next year, Smith said.
The idea of allowing untrained users to build their own applications has been around for a long time, with little success.
But Web services, such as mapping applications, and more powerful front-end development languages let people build powerful programs without enlisting professional developers.
In May, Microsoft released an early version of Popfly, a hosted application-construction tool aimed at consumers. People customize Web sites by combining information from popular Web services like MySpace and Flickr.
Adobe last week showed off a product in development called, which is aimed at designers. With the tool, designers can lay out a Web application's look and program the interactivity without having to write code.