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BackWeb joins enterprise portal vendors

BackWeb is the latest entry into the business portal software market. It will be competing against such giants as SAP, IBM and Sybase and 200 others in the crowded field.

NEW YORK-- BackWeb has marked its entry into the already overcrowded enterprise portal software market with a product that extends the traditional portal software feature set to include offline access and proactive notification.

These features could help BackWeb, one of the early 'push' technology pioneers, differentiate its portal product, but the company still faces a tough battle in a market that is increasingly dominated by a handful of mainstream enterprise software vendors like SAP, IBM and Sybase. By some estimates, as many as 200 separate vendors, including a number of specialists, have launched products into the loosely defined enterprise portal software market, which is projected to grow from $2 billion this year to $6.2 billion by 2003.

BackWeb claims its ProactivePortal Server, which was pre-announced in June, is the first enterprise portal package to satisfy the emerging requirements for both offline access and proactive notifications. Its offline access technology enables users to view content even when disconnected from the Internet -- a feature that's expected to appeal particularly to remote users, such as mobile executives, business managers and sales people, who are unwilling to wait for wireless infrastructures to mature.

Proactive notification exploits BackWeb's highly scalable delivery and notification capabilities originally developed for the push technology marketplace, and applies them to the enterprise portal market. Proactive notification enables managers to send time-sensitive content to specific users without interfering with active applications.

Both features rely on the subscription management capabilities that BackWeb built into the package to support deep end-user personalization and to let users choose which critical content they want delivered offline and via proactive notification.

The software also uses BackWeb's 'Polite' content delivery technology -- the ability to deliver massive data over thin and fat networks to multiple users without impacting network performance. Sensibly, BackWeb has also employed open architecture, ensuring that ProactivePortal Server can be connected to any enterprise portal, intranet or Web-based content, enabling customers to preserve their existing investments.

BackWeb's move into the enterprise portal space represents a logical use of its core infrastructure technology. Nevertheless, the company is late into the already consolidating market and risks being outflanked by larger rivals with much deeper pockets.

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