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Informix heralds a New Era

Hoping to stir up some action in a stagnant tools market, Informix plans to release a new modular development toolkit early next year for building Web and client-server applications.

Hoping to stir up some action in a stagnant tools market, Informix (IFMX) plans to release a new modular development toolkit early next year for building Web and client-server applications.

Informix, a rising star that recently deposed Sybase (SYBS) as the number-two database software maker, is attempting to revamp an existing tool, called New Era, to make it more attractive to intranet application developers. The company hopes that a new New Era will jump-start its tools revenue, which has remained flat despite double-digit growth in the company's database software business, according to CEO Phil White.

The idea behind the components strategy is to let developers mix and match tools that perform specific functions, instead of asking companies to pay for an entire toolset that does everything but fix the corporate plumbing. New Era is also being revised to work with the company's upcoming Universal Server database software for handling multiple data types, as well as software from competitors, including Oracle and Sybase.

"People are not willing to pay much for tools anymore, so if we can componentize our tools, we may see an uptick," said White.

While New Era is priced at roughly $1,000 per developer, the component version will sell for a fraction of that, presumably making it more appealing to developers growing accustomed to downloading the new breed of dirt-cheap or free development tools from the Web.

White said the component version of New Era will consist of a single development environment with optional components for building Java, fourth-generation language, and Web client applications, along with other undisclosed components.

The Java component will be a version of the company's JWorks tool, a Java-based drag-and-drop visual development tool due next year, said Brett Bachman, general manager of enterprise products at Informix.

The component toolkit will be delivered as a point upgrade to New Era 3.0, which is itself set to ship next month. Version 3.0 has been redesigned to support the development of applications that use the complete spectrum of data types, including text, video, and images. All this data, inaccessible from traditional databases, will be stored in the Universal Server database, which will also debut early next month.

But Informix won't be the only one looking to catch new customers with componentized tools. Microsoft plans to take a similar tack with its Visual Basic, Visual C++, Visual J++, and Visual FoxPro development tools in future releases.

Microsoft will also unify the look and feel of its tools by providing a common front end using its Developer's Studio interface technology. The idea is that components for developing Visual Basic or other code will then plug into the Developer's Studio interface.