Whatever happened to Informix Software Inc’s three tier client/server development environment, NewEra? Built on top of an object-oriented database from Versant Object Technology Corp, it was originally set to be launched in early 1995, was held back until last summer, and has limped along somehow all the way to a third version without really finding a settled place in Informix’s plans. In his opening keynote at the company’s sixth annual international user group meet in San Francisco this week, for example, former chief operating officer and now simply chairman Phil White failed to mention the thing at all, when it had played a major part in preceding conference openers in 1994 and 1995, and at least got nodded at in 1996. Instead White talked up Data Director, recently bought in technology from its acquisition CenterView Software Inc (CI No 3,130) that allows Visual Basic or Java programmers to access the company’s Universal Server database, which itself requires Datablades rather than NewEra applications to access it.
A little confusing
Given that the company spent a lot of money developing NewEra – an upgrade to its existing (and still used) green screen language, Informix 4GL – and has been trying to sell the thing since 1995, this seems a little confusing. Rumors abound that the company is seeking to off-load the product and be shot of it altogether. What is going on? Turns out NewEra is still there, but the market has removed its point. If we were going to sell NewEra we would have done it a long time ago, says White. It’s still there, it’s still in the lab, people use it, but no-one’s buying any more. He argues that companies are no longer prepared to buy high-end tools for $500 upward per seat, and that in today’s world Visual Basic and Java are where the action is. Microsoft just made a statement that there are three million VB users out there; we think we might as well get on that bandwagon. Whether Informix will simply continue to de-emphasize NewEra or actively divest it, in its own way this attempt under White’s watch to charge a hill – for, in its day, NewEra was positioned by White as a fully OO Forte Software Inc class tool – is another failure due to excessive ambition. Once again Informix chose to stress boutique technology (Universal Server, NewEra) over its more humdrum but more accepted staples (Informix On- Line, Informix-4GL).