By Nick Patience
Miva Corp, the company formerly known as Htmlscript, will launch a new version of its Miva Merchant browser-based storefront building and management software today, five months after the product began shipping. In that time, says Miva CEO Joe Austin, the company has sold about 2,500 copies of Merchant and, according to Austin, business is booming at the small San Diego-based software company. Overall, Miva claims more than 30,000 developer seats for its product range, which also includes Miva Mia, and Empresa. This year the company is starting to move away from its dependency on web hosting firms as its only sales channel and it is shortly to begin offering a combined version of Merchant and Empresa – the scripting engine the resides on a web server – on Windows NT, which will be sold through web-based software stores like Beyond.com and traditional VARs. After that, the enterprise is the next target for Miva, with an enterprise version of Miva Merchant arriving in the fourth quarter of this year costing a few thousand dollars and capable, reckons Austin, of generating a couple of million dollars in sales straight off the bat. It is still in the preliminary stages of development right now, however, so there are no firm details yet – thoughtware, as Austin calls it. Miva expects to also do a Solaris version of the bundle, which has a combined installer. Merchant enables developers to construct storefronts using MivaScript, the company’s HTML-like language, over the web or to work offline, but still within the browser interface. This version, actually the 1.2.4 cut, but the first one Miva has talked about publicly, also features multi-user management, so, for example, some users may have permission to deal with the web store’s payment processing features, whereas other users will be locked out, but the two can work on the storefront simultaneously. Multiple storefronts can also be linked in an electronic mall format with the new version. Miva also includes the source code with each copy of Merchant, so more advanced developers can customize it as they see fit. Austin says that will not stop Miva’s upgrade revenue stream, because, due to its modular architecture, Merchant can flag altered modules and not overwrite it when upgrades are added. Austin says modified modules can take advantage of any upgrades as well. Miva will upgrade Merchant again next quarter and launch version 4.0 of the Empresa and Mia engines in the third quarter. Miva will also launch a compiler around that time that will compile MivaScript down to executable machine code that developers will be able to offer to anyone royalty-free. Austin was reluctant to go into much detail about the plans at the moment. With Merchant, Miva is going up against Mercantec Inc’s SoftCart tool and Open Market’s ShopSite. But Austin reckons Miva already has almost as many seats as SoftCart. The company has finally mothballed its KoolCat catalog tool – it offered all the 2,000- odd developers a free copy of Merchant, but is not counting them in its ‘2,500 copies sold’ claim. Merchant ships on Windows 95/98 & NT, Solaris , BSDI, Cobalt, Digital Unix, Linux, SCO, SGI, and runs on any web server supporting CGI, ISAPI or NSAPI. It costs $500 per domain, and $100 per additional storefront on a domain. Empresa is $500 per CPU, although many web hosting firms offer it for free to their customers.