Computer Associates relaunched its almost forgotten Masterpiece financial applications yesterday in a glitzy New York event, promising to take on SAP and Oracle in the corporate market.
Masterpiece, rewritten in Java and rechristened Masterpiece/Net, is now the responsibility of a dedicated business unit and has four key new features - full Web enablement, workflow, back office management via CA's Unicenter product and business communications.
Abram Azagury, the senior vice president who heads up the Enterprise Financial Management group, claims the product suite has leapfrogged its competitors in terms of ease of management and implementation, and will be marketed with new aggression by its own business unit.
He admitted that Masterpiece had lost market profile compared to CA's flagship system management product, Unicenter, and its Ingres database. "You must be wondering why we're doing anything with Masterpiece - the product died five years ago, didn't it?" he asked the audience at the Carnegie Hall launch.
The time was right for a new push behind Masterpiece, to take it outside its installed base of 2,000 companies, he said, because so many sites were finding client/server solutions "horrendous" to implement and support. The problem had been aggravated by the looming Year 2000 and EMU deadlines, so that the market was crying out for a Web-enabled product, he claimed. The reduced management and support complexity of a product running on a Web server and accessed by browsers was the main attraction of Masterpiece/Net to large users.
"It is very hard to support and distribute client software, and implementation times are a huge issue for Oracle and SAP," Azagury said. "We changed tack and the Net product went into beta last autumn. The Year 2000 issue is a great opportunity for us. If it takes three and a half years to implement SAP, it won't be ready in time. We take 4-6 months."
Ed Black, an analyst at the Aberdeen Group, claims the product is "strongly differentiable" largely because every function is Web-enabled. Most rivals, he claims, have written applet libraries covering only a subset of their products' functions. But others believe ?Masterpiece just isn?t a name any more? and claim it has an almost impossible marketing task to put itself back on the map alongside Oracle and SAP.
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