Java design and development house MerzCom Inc is the latest company to offer data visualization and navigation tools for the web. Its new product, MerzScope, written entirely in Java, consists of a mapping application for web-site designers and an applet for viewing and navigating information. It’s designed to give users a graphical overview of data and to enable web designers to create maps of dynamic, relational links between pages of information. Rather than opening and closing windows, users can zoom in and zoom out to view information from different perspectives. The company boasts the recently released 1.01 version of the product has shrunk the applet to around half its original size by using Java archiving for Communicator 4.0. Founder Henry See claims the applications for its technology go beyond the web and will eventually be used as a kind of interface for organizing almost any kind of data. Its makers claim MerzScope differs from superficially similar applications such as Apple’s HotSauce or Perspecta Inc’s SmartContent tool in that it is more flexible, allowing users to customize and structure information in a range of different ways, including logos and graphics. Perspecta counters by saying its SmartContent integrated server package is aimed at the high end corporate market, unlike MerzScope, which it dismisses as a client only, two-dimensional product. MerzCom says it will announce a deal before Christmas that will see the MerzScope technology integrated into a new line of non web-based products. It’s also currently readying Merzbau, a set of third party tools due for release in the first quarter of 1998, to enable developers to integrate the technology into other applications. Privately held MerzCom was founded in October 1996, although work on its product line started two years earlier as part of a research project with the Canadian government. It acquired the rights to the technology and launched its first product earlier this year. MerzCom now predicts revenues of around $1m for 1997 and says it should break even by its second year, listing key customers as IBM Corp, NASA and Bell Canada. A single server license for MerzScope costs $395; additional servers can be added for $99 each.
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