Kiwis usher in the Java Age

A Kiwi business is leading the world with new IBM Java software - technology one developer believes could leave Microsoft floundering. Australian consultant Doug Marker's first customer to receive an implementation based around VisualAge for Java has impressed Lower Hutt company Motor Spares. In fact, so impressed was Motor Spares' managing director, Dave Adams, that he has now left the business to set up a local branch of Marker's Sydney-based operation, Internet Age.

A Kiwi business is leading the world with new IBM Java software — technology one developer believes could leave Microsoft floundering.

Australian consultant Doug Marker’s first customer to receive an implementation based around VisualAge for Java has impressed Lower Hutt company Motor Spares. In fact, so impressed was Motor Spares’ managing director, Dave Adams, that he has now left the business to set up a local branch of Marker’s Sydney-based operation, Internet Age.

Marker says Java is building so much momentum and is of such quality that it is now unstoppable. “Microsoft is watching history pass it by,” he says.

Java tools are offering an entirely new level of sophistication to programmers, Marker says. He believes products such as VisualAge will inspire an entirely new family of component software and provide new opportunities for developers, who will be able to create and sell individual Java-based application components (Java Beans) to be plugged into broader, multivendor-inspired business solutions.

“Java Beans look like a standard to open up the world market for object component coding.”

Marker’s Java development for Motor Spares is a catalogue and ordering system which is attracting international interest as an example of how Java can be used to expand a company’s market reach and cut operating costs.

Former managing director Dave Adams says he hit on the idea for creating the product after getting “sick and tired” of a cumbersome manual system which put customers on hold and wasted telephone time as staff looked up data bulky reference guides. Now customers can look up data online, view illustrations or photos of parts and do the ordering online. They can also look up useful “how to” information which normally resides in easy-to-lose pamphlets.

When they pick up errors in the data or find they can add useful knowledge on assembly issues, their information can be sent information can be sent back to Motor Spares for inclusion in the database. The result, says Adams, is that customers now have a sense of ownership and participation in the product.

The system, available in desktop and Internet versions, has enabled Motor Spares to reduce its ordering staff by 60% while improving profitability and turnaround for orders.

Users can now order at any time of day via the Internet - in the past 60% of orders were placed between 2.30pm and 5.30pm. Printing and advertising costs have also been reduced as a result of the diminished need for printed catalogues.

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The company’s strategy has been to deploy a version developed with IBM’s Visual Age for SmallTalk on the desktop in New Zealand and to use the Internet version for customers in South-East Asia, the Pacific and the United States.

Adams says slow Internet speeds have slowed the online version’s deployment locally but he expects this situation to be remedied in the next few months with the introduction of faster technologies.

The Java applications used in the catalogue are all under 10Kb and connect to a legacy Cobol database. Orders are shipped upon receipt of a bank transfer payment.

Marker says he settled on IBM’s Java development tools after trying numerous solutions, including Symantec Café and Visual Café, Sun’s Java Studio and Borland’s J Builder. He also tried to develop the product with ActiveX but gave up after twice crashing his beta NT server software during development.

Marker regards VisualAge for Java’s method of connecting components by drawing lines between them on-screen as a revelation. Complementary new Java products introduced by IBM last week included Visual WebRunner, a toolkit of productivity aids. IBM claims the Webrunner Bean Wizard allows non-experienced programmers to build 100% pure JavaBeans in just 90 seconds. A migration kit converts ActiveX controls to skeletal JavaBeans. Also new is VisualAge for Java Professional Edition.

Adams, joined by former Motor Spares system manager Bob Crockett, has now set up a New Zealand branch of Internet Age and is selling Java-based solutions inspired by Motor Spares’ component technology.

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