Baan adds Web features to business applications

Computer World –

Baan Co. NV Tuesday announced an upgraded set of Web-enabled business applications that analysts said may help the ailing software vendor retain some of its existing users.

Baan, which was acquired last August by London-based Invensys PLC, said it's launching an iBaan product line that adds new Internet features to its enterprise resource planning (ERP), supply-chain and collaborative computing applications. Tuesday's rollout followed an announcement last week in which Invensys said Baan had been profitable from an operating standpoint in last year's fourth quarter, with revenue totalling US$100 million.

The latest developments should come as welcome news to at least some of the users who have made big investments in Baan's software and who want to see the applications remain competitive with products from SAP AG and other ERP vendors, said Kelly Spang, an analyst at Current Analysis Inc. in Sterling, Va. "This puts [Baan] on the right track, and it seems they have some positive momentum," she said.

Before being taken over by Invensys in a $709 million deal, Netherlands-based Baan had lost money for eight straight quarters and had gone through four CEOs in a span of just two years. Without the rescue by Invensys, Baan executives said last summer, there was "significant uncertainty" about the company's ability to continue operating.

The iBaan suite includes a new thin-client user interface for Baan's ERP applications, plus an Internet portal and software supporting business-to-business collaboration via the Web. Baan also rolled out an application integration framework for tying its software to other programs via an XML gateway and graphical business object modeling technology.

Spang said the new products won't put Baan ahead of rivals, such as SAP, in the applications technology race. But Baan may be able to attract users by focusing on a set of industry-specific versions of its applications, she added. For example, some of the software is geared to manufacturers in markets such as the auto, aerospace and electronics industries.

Jill Jenkins, another Current Analysis analyst who follows supply-chain software, said the iBaan rollout gives Baan a Web-based supply-chain management offering that supports online collaboration between trading partners. Baan is also promising that its applications will be able to be more easily integrated with homegrown software and packages developed by other vendors, she added.

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