InfoImage, Microsoft Partner on Portal Track

FRAMINGHAM (04/28/2000) - Phoenix-based InfoImage Inc. hopes that cozying up to Microsoft Corp. will seal its transition from service provider to corporate portal vendor.

This week, InfoImage announced Version 2 of its Freedom corporate portal offering. The Web-based product is available in two editions: B2B Decision Server and B2E Decision Server. Both allow users to collaborate via the Web or a corporate intranet to extract structured data from back-end systems and unstructured data from the Web and productivity applications.

The B2B version features enhanced security and access controls, while the B2E product, targeted at internal employees, is optimized for an intranet setting and Microsoft's Internet Explorer, Outlook and Digital Dashboard applications.

Gene Phifer, an analyst at Gartner Group Inc. in Stamford, Connecticut, said close ties to Microsoft helped InfoImage gain credibility in the corporate portal market but may hinder the company from selling to firms with Unix computing environments.

"The partnership is an enabler on one hand because of the underlying architecture that Microsoft provides in the operating platform," Phifer said.

"On the other hand, independent of arguments about [Windows] NT's scalability and reliability ... some clients just want Unix. And by playing in an NT-only world, they cannot supply to those clients."

A former top-selling systems integrator in the collaboration space and a longtime Lotus Notes partisan, InfoImage entered the portal market a year ago - encroaching on a space chock-full of competitors such as Viador Inc. in Mountain View, California and Plumtree Software Inc. in San Francisco.

By October, InfoImage had unveiled a partnership that drew an equity investment from Microsoft of about $10 million. The deal called for InfoImage to develop exclusively on Microsoft's platforms and to showcase Digital Dashboard.

Digital Dashboard, a key component of Microsoft's desktop knowledge-management initiative, offers a consolidated view into various knowledge sources.

InfoImage officials said the first version of Freedom was optimized for the Lotus Notes messaging system. With the release of Freedom 2, InfoImage did a complete about-face, because the new version is optimized for Microsoft's Exchange platform and Digital Dashboard.

Hadley Reynolds, an analyst at Delphi Group Ltd. in Boston, said one of Freedom's strong points is its ability to extract transactional data from back-end systems.

"Each portal vendor faces the challenge of integrating the layer between the sources of information and the user's experience on the browser," said Reynolds. "InfoImage has done a good job of orchestrating that integration because of their systems integration background with the [enterprise resource vendors]."

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