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Fujitsu's Java workflow system

The firm's new process automation tool allows companies to manage their business processes across the Net or on an internal intranet.

Fujitsu Software may not be well known in the Internet technology game but it's ready to take on Netscape Communications with a new Java-based workflow system.

Called i-flow, the San Jose, California-based firm's new product is a process automation tool that allows companies to manage their internal and external business processes across the Internet or on an internal intranet.

Fujitsu is marketing the product to other software vendors and to value-added resellers. It comes with Adapter Objects, a Java-based source code with application programming interfaces included that can be customized to easily integrate the workflow system with other software systems in a company such as groupware products like Microsoft Exchange or databases like Oracle 7.3.

The product comes on the heels of Netscape's announcement last week that it is developing an Internet-based workflow system to compete in the lucrative market.

But unlike Netscape, Fujitsu does not have a proven name in the Internet world and may run into difficulty on the marketing front when it takes its new product to customers, said Tim Sloane, an analyst at Boston-based Aberdeen Group

"Netscape announced a product that fits into a product line that already has significantly wide distribution going for it, so Netscape's channel of distribution is already arranged, not to mention the high visibility of its Internet products," Sloane said. "The real challenge for Fujitsu is not developing the product but nailing down the partners to distribute it. They have an extremely low visibility overall that they need to overcome."

From a technological standpoint, Sloane said Fujitsu may be on the right track because a 100 percent Java-based system that can be deployed on a central server is an easy sell. It will also be the only product on the market in this space that is entirely Web-based.

"The challenge is to prove that the product is scaleable and reliable," Sloane said.

Fujitsu says its system will run on Windows NT or Sun Microsystem's Unix-based Solaris and can scale up to 10,000 users. It is scheduled for release by the end of this month. Pricing for 25 users is $25,000 and for 100 users is $50,000. Besides Adapter Objects, i-flow comes with a workflow engine and a software developers' kit.