Tibco readies rich Internet apps play

Tibco on Monday will announce shipment of General Interface 3.0, an AJAX-based (Asynchronous JavaScript plus XML) technology. This represents a major play in the rich Internet applications arena, positioning Tibco to vie against Macromedia's widespread Flash and Flex technologies.

The move is meant to boost Tibco's foothold in the rich Internet applications market -- browser-based systems that offer the graphical experience of traditional client-server programs -- and it leverages technology gained when General Interface became part of Tibco's portfolio in an acquisition announced in October 2004.

With General Interface, Tibco seeks to broaden its reach in the SOA marketplace to developers. The company sees a synergy between the growth in rich Internet application development and SOAs.

"The idea at Tibco is to take these technologies that we matured at the enterprise and broaden the reach of the company to the developer," said Kevin Hakman, director of product marketing for Tibco General Interface.

By deploying AJAX capabilities inside a browser, users do not have to rely on plug-ins -- such as Flash -- applets, or ActiveX controls, Hackman said.

"We are already having customers pick us over alternative solutions," including Macromedia offerings, Hakman said. Tibco representatives said they could not at this time provide the names of users who are switching.

Improvements in General Interface 3.0 include the addition of reusable components, including a 2-D charting package, editable data grids, and rich form elements such as type-ahead boxes, which automatically complete a list. These components are being added to the Framework element of General Interface.

"[The components] save developers time because they've got more reusable components than the [previous] edition had, Hakman said.

An in-line API reference in General Interface Builder, a visual tool, provides instant access to objects and methods. A tool tip reference capability provides a textual description of GUI elements when a mouse cursor hovers over it.

Hotkeys are provided in Builder for functions such as saving or creating files. Developers can navigate the GUI via hotkeys on the keyboard instead of using a mouse.

Builder also is being fitted with a visual binding tool for document-literal SOAP messaging. This enables a developer to drag and drop GUI-based objects and data objects onto a WSDL file for rapidly binding to Web services,

"The importance is that we can communicate with Web services and you can rapidly author the connections to Web services," Hakman said.

General Interface can communicate with Web services but it actually is based on the use of standard HTTP servers.

Framework also abstracts browser APIs, laying the foundation for planned support of the Mozilla Firefox browser in several months. Internet Explorer currently is supported. Developers using this capability can write a single API.

General Interface 3.0 pricing starts at US$25,000 for the Framework component of the product.

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