New version of WebSphere Commerce Suite embraces Java

IBM Corp. last week announced the release of Version 5.1 of its WebSphere Commerce Suite with added multicultural functions and support for mobile devices, as well as a move for the platform to 100 percent Java.

The switch to Java makes the architecture easier to extend and allows customers to take advantage of the plentiful Java skills available in the market, according to one customer.

"One of the greatest features is the open solution, industry standard Java," said Marshall Freiman, CTO of Phoenix-based e-commerce integrator Web Emporium, one of the customers revealed at the Version 5.1 launch.

"It is easier to hire developers for Java. They are excited about working on it," Freiman said.

Version 5.1's multicultural support goes beyond mere language choices and offers culture-specific currency, tax, and shipping options.

"Currently, customers have to deploy multiple sites to adhere to different cultural rules," said Ed Kilroy, general manager of IBM's eCommerce Software Group, in Somers, New York "This lets you deploy from a single site, catalog, or store. It's a more cost-effective way for deploying global commerce solutions."

In addition, Version 5.1 adds support for mobile devices such as cell phones, PDAs, Web TV, and laptops. Support includes notification messages, automatic content selection for specific devices, customized shopping flow for specific devices, and support for mobile protocols.

The system also adds function enabling business managers to create targeted campaigns. By using the feature, companies are expected to be able to increase inventory turns. In addition, managers can use the tool to retrieve immediate reporting results on the success of the campaigns without enlisting the help of IT.

The ease of use and real-time reporting allow managers to quickly react to changing market conditions, IBM said.

"The interface is intuitive," Kilroy said. "It does not require a technical background. It helps business managers dynamically react to changing market situations."

Web Emporium customer West Marine, an international boating supplies seller headquartered in Watsonville, Calif., spends 10 percent to 15 percent of its IT budget on merchandising, Freiman said.

"Now the merchandising people can do it in real time," Freiman said. "And the IT department can use their resources for other projects."

In addition, West Marine will use the support for mobile devices to stay in touch with customers when they are away from the port.

Available immediately, the system runs on Windows NT and will be available for AIX on Feb. 28 and for Solaris on March 30. Later this year, IBM will make the system available on Linux.

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