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WebGain snags Java start-up

The software development toolmaker acquires new Java technology that makes it simpler to build Web-based software.

Software development toolmaker WebGain has acquired new Java technology that makes it simpler to build Web-based software.

WebGain, which makes the popular Visual Cafe Java development tool, has purchased Zat, a five-person start-up that has built a tool that allows people to easily attach small pieces of pre-written Java software code and assemble them to form e-commerce software. Financial details of the deal were not disclosed.

WebGain was formed in December after e-commerce software maker BEA Systems and investment firm Warburg Pincus Ventures acquired Symantec's Internet tools division for $75 million. The new company competes with Inprise, IBM, Sun Microsystems and others in selling Java development tools, which allow software developers to use the Java programming language to build business software.

WebGain's Visual Cafe allows programmers to build Java components, or pre-written modules of Java software, while Zat's software tool, called "Spin," lets developers attach them together into a more complicated piece of software, said WebGain chief executive Joe Menard.

Pre-written Java modules could handle tasks such as Web site shopping carts, online order forms or financial transaction engines for calculating sales tax.

Menard said software programmers and non-programmers alike can quickly and easily use the new Zat tool to build Web software for their companies. People who want to create e-commerce software can download Java components from online marketplaces, such as ComponentSource and, and combine them into a single piece of software with Zat's tool, he said. The product allows developers to point and click to attach the components together.

"Ten years ago, you (could) take 24 months to build an application, but today it has to be done fast," Menard said. "You have to make sure your software developers are productive. There's a shift driven by the Internet to equip developers with new productivity tools."

Zat, based in Portland, Ore., is WebGain's fourth acquisition since its formation, and more acquisitions are in the works, Menard said. The company in March acquired Tendril Software, maker of visual modeling software that offers programmers a graphical representation of business software as it is being written. WebGain in April acquired TopLink, a tool that connects Java software code with back-end databases, software that collects and stores information.

WebGain plans to ship a test version of the Zat software tool in September.