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Manageable PC a step closer

Novadigm's new technology lets IS organizations manage and update software across the Net without manual intervention at a specific PC.

The manageable PC may be closer to reality than many people think.

Novadigm (NVDM) on Monday will detail new technology that let IS organizations at large companies roll out updates to software, Web page content, and components across the Net, without manual intervention at a specific PC.

"We're leveraging the Internet to tackle a big tactical, cost-of-ownership problem," said Albion Fitzgerald, founder and CEO of Novadigm.

Dubbed the Radia Active Component Management System, this new set of tools allows management of software on PCs in a decentralized manner. A user who connects to a management server in Novadigm's scheme will automatically have the state of their machine reviewed and any application component or code that the user needs will be pushed down to their PC. A road map for delivery of this software architecture will be released Monday.

"I think this is a big step forward for them," noted Waverly Deutsche, director of the computing strategy service at Forrester Research. "What Radia does is allow them to come in at a lower price point."

The new tools allow for a "reservoir of voluntarily selected software" to be disseminated to the right users, Deutsche said. Thus, an application essentially becomes self-maintaining, according to Novadigm officials, whether it is a popular suite such as Microsoft Office or the latest plug-in for a browser.

Novadigm's current offering, Enterprise Desktop Manager (EDM), caters to the needs of a centralized Information Systems (IS) group within large enterprise corporate networks. Within EDM's architecture, a centralized console interacts and manages particular PCs, rather than an automated server program.

The technology found in EDM has found a place in the market as a component tool to huge enterprise platforms such as Computer Associates Unicenter and Tivoli Systems TME 10. Analysts said these large tools are not as pervasive as some might think, leaving room for companies such as Novadigm. "People haven't implemented the big tools," Deutsche noted.

The Radia Software Manager, the first component of the toolset, will be available in December on Microsoft's Windows NT operating system for $15,000 for a server that supports 100 subscribers. Other platform support will follow.

Other elements of the strategy will roll out in 1998, including a Radia Application Manager, Delivery Manager, and Content Manager. Pricing and delivery on these components of the package have not been finalized, according to Novadigm officials.

Separately, Fitzgerald said the company's litigation against Marimba, a competitor in the push technology field, is continuing through its discovery phase. Novadigm believes Marimba is using elements of patented Novadigm technology called "fractional differencing" in its products that allow a server to push only the updated components an application requires down to the desktop.

"We feel even more strongly that they are using our intellectual property," Fitzgerald said.

The CEO said his company is attempting to work with third parties who are interested in moving along a recently floated specification governing how software is sent across a network to users. (See related story) A portion of that technology is part of the lawsuit involving Marimba, but Fitzgerald said he is trying to find a way to move the standards process forward.