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Start-up steps into portal market with free version

Thoughtstar is now offering a free scaled-down version of its QuickTeam portal software due out in November.

Start-up Thoughtstar has one way of getting people to use their product instead of others in the hot corporate portal market: a free limited version of their QuickTeam portal software.

Available today on the product's Web site, QuickTeam Express is a scaled-down version of QuickTeam Professional, which allows users to collaborate through features like project planning and management, task and decision management, team calendaring, online voting, and real-time chat.

Due out in November, QuickTeam Professional will be available on the Net for hosting, for $12 a month, with a packaged version to follow.

David Carter "A lot of times people want to host themselves, on their intranet. We'll release an out-of-the-box version by the end of December," said David Carter, president of Thoughtstar. The packaged version will be priced at $595 for a five-person license.

Once users get a taste of what QuickTeam Express can do for their teams and their project management needs, Thoughtstar is hoping they will want access to the full-featured Professional version.

In general, portal software combines "unstructured" information, such as word processing documents, Web pages, and other text-based content, with "structured" information, such as that contained in corporate databases and other back-office systems. The whole package is then delivered to users through a Web interface.

That's a valuable tool for companies building both internal corporate portals for employee use and portals for e-commerce, as well as Net start-ups looking to stake out turf quickly on the Net. Ready-made portal software can be easily customized.

Intranet software users are now aiming to bring their businesses outside the firewall and onto the Web--a task that requires portal software. This shift has spurred more intranet companies, including Lotus, Microsoft, and Netscape, to enter the corporate portal pool.

Corporate portals come under the wider spectrum of knowledge management software, which has become a catchphrase in the software industry. The software is used to provide a system for companies to transform information from various sources--the Web, back-office applications, databases--into client applications for making business decisions.

During the past two years knowledge management has been heavily touted as a new strategy by Lotus, and more recently by Microsoft.