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Polyglot help desk linked to the world

Small software development firm PHD will roll out new Web components to its multilingual help desk software later this month.

PHD will roll out new Web components to its Professional Help Desk multilingual help desk software later this month.

The company will introduce ActiveX, Web, and Windows CE components that will extend the reach of its software.

PHD ActiveX controls will give corporate developers a tool to embed custom help software in Microsoft Excel spreadsheets or SAP R/3 business applications, said PHD's president and CEO Isidore Sobkowski.

"Without leaving their application the end user can get an answer to their problems," Sobkowski said. "Our goal is to make support ubiquitous."

Meanwhile, the company has developed PHD Web, opening up help desks to standard browsers, and PHD CE, which lets technicians on the road with handheld computers running Windows CE gain full access to their company's help desks.

The Professional Help Desk application can remember fixes to common problems and communicate with users in several foreign languages

"Our problem resolution technology will answer questions as easily in French, German or Hebrew, and any number of other languages, as it does in English. It's a feature I'm particularly proud of," said Sobkowski. He developed the "fuzzy logic" technology as a graduate student at the City College of New York a few years ago.

Bill Keyworth, a research director at Gartner Group, said the product gets the most out of the Microsoft software it runs atop.

"They are maximizing the benefits that the Microsoft technology has to offer," said Keyworth. He said that the product's "tight focus on the NT environment" can save deployment time and money.

But, he cautioned that the company is facing stiff competition. PHD, a relatively new face in a crowd of help desk vendors, needs to prove it can set up extensive distribution, service and support if it is to capture a piece of the booming $800 million market for such technology, he said.

"They have extremely good technology. But they have yet to prove if they can execute well," said Keyworth.

It is a challenge that Sobkowski said the company is committed to meeting. PHD runs five U.S. support offices and is in the process of opening others in Northern California and Toronto, he said. It also offers support through its value-added reseller network in several European, Latin American and Asian countries, he said.

Pricing for the company's existing client/server help desk product starts at $1,495 per seat. The new components will be sold separately. Pricing will be announced when the products ship later this month.