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Mapics pushes e-commerce plan

The former IBM division is sprucing up its enterprise resource planning system with a new Web-client product called eWorkPlace.

An old dog in the manufacturing automation software business is learning a new trick.

Mapics, the former IBM division based in Atlanta, is sprucing up its enterprise resource planning system with a new Java-client front-end called eWorkPlace. The product is the latest offering in Mapics's e-commerce strategy. The firm has been a long-time player in the manufacturing world and is enjoying a bit of a renaissance lately.

The new Web-client product is designed to let employees in a manufacturing firm access information and applications through a Web browser.

"Mapics has developed an aggressive e-business strategy to help our customers take advantage of global communications," said Dick Cook, Mapics's president and chief executive. "EWorkPlace is the next step in delivering on this strategy and directly responds to our customers who have told us that Web-enablement is a top requirement for their ERP system."

And Mapics is not alone in its rush to the Web. Most of the major enterprise resource planning vendors such as SAP, PeopleSoft, and Oracle are looking for ways to extend the reach of their products by slapping Internet front-ends on them or migrating their products from a two-tier system to a three-tier one. Three-tier client-server computing puts most of the processing power on the server, so companies don't have to install software on every user's PC.

Mapics executives said the move is designed to make it cheaper for clients to use Mapics products since it doesn't require maintenance of sometimes thousands of PCs. It is rather quick to implement and lets a company have more employees taking advantage of the system. Mapics's products are also designed for IBM's AS/400 server system, which recently has gotten more attention from Internet vendors who have traditionally focused on client-server systems.