BEA to stick with server-centric strategy

Unlike other leading application server vendors, such as IBM, which offers a bevy of programs that run on its platform, BEA Systems Inc. isn't developing an application-centric strategy for its flagship WebLogic application server.

Instead, the San Jose-based company wants to stick to its server-centric strategy, said CEO Bill Coleman at BEA eWorld 2001, the infrastructure software company's sixth annual user conference, here this week. But analysts said that plan makes the firm's growth outlook slim.

"At this stage of development for BEA, they don't have the mind share as an applications company, and specifically, they don't have the mind share as a commerce company," said Larry Perlstein, an analyst at Gartner Group. "They're going to have to diversify the company to continue the growth rate that we've seen."

On Monday, BEA unveiled plans to merge its Web and transactions servers, BEA WebLogic and BEA Tuxedo, in the forthcoming release of WebLogic Enterprise 6.0. Combining the two products will help customers build applications for diverse computing environments, officials said.

BEA also introduced a new product to its portfolio, the Campaign Manager, a customer management application slated to ship in April. Campaign Manager offers building blocks for e-commerce applications, such as the shopping cart and order-management components in the WebLogic Commerce Server. But BEA has shied away from developing full-blown applications.

"The strategy of trying to do applications is a self-defeating strategy," said BEA's Coleman. "The success of a platform, [such as] ours or Windows, is based on getting all the application vendors to run on you. And unless you can do all the applications in the world, you [had] better not compete with applications."

Two weeks ago, BEA beat Wall Street earnings estimates on its pro forma earnings by a penny. BEA posted net earnings of US$18.9 million, or 4 cents per diluted share, for its fourth fiscal quarter ended Jan. 31, compared with a loss of $13.7, or 4 cents per share, for the year-prior period. Revenue grew 72% to $256 million for the period, compared with $149.2 million in the previous year.

BEA's stock has been gradually sliding this year, but Mark Mulcahy, an analyst at Pacific Growth Equities Inc. in San Francisco, said unsavoury conditions in the technology market were mostly to blame for pulling down BEA's stock price. He added that the company's outlook didn't warrant its relatively high stock price, which was $39.38 at 3 p.m. today.

"With other stocks being shot in the back of the head, even at less than $40, the stock is too expensive," said Mulcahy. "It wasn't the blowout quarter that some investors were expecting. It's an excellent company in a growing space, but they have a very expensive stock."

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