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BEA Handing Control Over To Everyday People

New Strategy Sidesteps Traditional IT Hierarchy

BEA Systems is turning towards nontechnical businesspeople frustrated by the slow pace of IT change. BEA intends to introduce a new product line, sold under a separate brand that will be released in phases over the next several months. The software allows users to make changes in Java code without having any in-depth programming skill.

The company's new product line will target businesspeople who don't have technical training but understand how new software should work. BEA's goal is to expand its sales beyond the limited pool of technical professionals and Java programmers, executives said.

"This will be addressing the significantly larger business user market," said Alfred Chuang, BEA's CEO. "Ultimately, users will have control over the applications." BEA is planning to release major upgrades to its existing product line this year, starting with the WebLogic application server version 9 this spring and an update to its entire server software suite in the second half of the year, according to Chuang.

"A number of the company's best-recognized technology leaders have left the company over the past year, throwing...BEA's reputation into question," Charles Di Bona, financial analyst at Sanford Bernstein, said in a recent note.

BEA has been beset by a number of challenges that have handicapped the company. For the fourth quarter its revenue has fallen; several high-profile executives have left the company within the past year; and a number of major industry leaders like Microsoft, IBM, Oracle and SAP have also been pursuing the same infrastructure software, or "middleware," market that BEA services. And open source Java applications servers, notably from JBoss, are putting pressure on the company.

"On strategy, there's no question that BEA has pulled in their horns a bit," said John Rymer, an analyst with Forrester Research, who noted that the company has chosen to focus on near-term execution. But "it's important to expand their market of customers by getting into this early stage market."

BEA's new software line will build off its existing server products, including its business process automation server, its QuickSilver integration software, and its Liquid Data, an XML-based data-access product, Chuang said. People will be able to "subscribe" to data feeds based on events and have information delivered to mobile devices, he added. With the company focusing on improving its near-term financial health and delivery of revenue-producing upgrades, it's likely the new product line won't be completed until next year. Neither code names nor final product names have been attached to the new line.

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