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WebGain seeks buyer for Java tools

The maker of Java development tools is hoping to sell off its technology before shutting down. An analyst says software developers should consider competitors' products.

Java development tools maker WebGain is hoping to sell off its technology before shutting its doors.

WebGain, a 3-year-old company spun off from Symantec, announced this week that it hopes to find buyers for its software, including its popular Java development tool Visual Cafe.

The company, which once had 400 employees, has laid off a large percentage of its employees, with the remaining staff working to sell off company assets or to provide support to existing customers, a WebGain spokeswoman said.

Until all assets of the company are sold, WebGain will continue to sell its tools and provide support and services to new and existing customers, the company said in a statement this week. WebGain said it has no plans to update the tools.

In June, WebGain sold its TopLink object-relational mapping software to database giant Oracle for an undisclosed sum. As part of the deal, about 90 WebGain employees became Oracle employees. On the day of the deal, WebGain auctioned off its computer gear and furniture at the company's old headquarters in Santa Clara, Calif.

Until this week's announcement, WebGain's status was unclear. Calls to WebGain had not been returned, and major investors BEA Systems and Warburg Pincus Ventures declined to comment on the company's standing.

Because of the popularity of the company's tools, and sensing an opportunity to grab market share, Sun Microsystems, IBM, Borland and Oracle have been offering deals to lure WebGain's remaining customers to their respective Java tools.

Analyst John Meyer of Giga Information Group said software developers should resist buying WebGain's tools and choose a tool from another company instead.

"WebGain has only kept a skeleton crew on staff. Maybe they can maintain the (software) code, but not to the point where it's a great release or a good product," Meyer said. "It's basically back to a simple IDE (integrated development environment). Who's interested in that?"

Meyer advises current WebGain customers to switch to a new Java tool within three to six months. Other toolmakers, such as Borland, Sun, IBM, and Oracle, for example, are financially healthy and have the research and development dollars to continue to improve their products, he said.

WebGain "is no longer a top-notch product," he added. "My advice is to execute a migration strategy off of it."

WebGain has moved its company headquarters to San Jose, Calif., and has updated its Web site with new contact information for sales and support, the company's statement said.

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