Small-Firm ERP Suite Ready for Mac OS X

PowerEasy, Sybase partner on enterprise applications for the Apple platform at Macworld Expo.

Software developer startup PowerEasy Corp. is readying an ERP suite for the Macintosh operating system.

PowerEasy ERP 1.0 on Mac OS X, which will be introduced at Macworld Expo in San Francisco this week, provides enterprise resource planning applications running on Sybase Inc.s Adaptive Server Enterprise database and Apple Computer Inc.s WebObjects 5.2 application server. Targeted for release during this quarter, the Mac-based ERP applications are geared for small and midsize businesses.

The suite comprises a typical collection of enterprise applications. The accounting and financial management module provides general ledger, accounts receivable and accounts payable applications, for instance. There are also inventory management, order management, procurement and e-commerce storefront applications, according to officials at PowerEasy, of San Jose, Calif., and Sybase, of Dublin, Calif.

The software will run on Apples Xserve rack-mounted server.

Having a coherent set of enterprise applications could be a boon for small companies that need to manage growing operations but dont want to leave their Mac-based systems.

Marware Inc., for example, experienced about 500 percent sales growth last year when the Hollywood, Fla., manufacturer started selling neoprene and leather cases for Macs iPod and titanium laptops.

"We experienced so much growth that it became really scary. Our database solution wasnt always current in relating when we were running low on supplies," said Maria Martin, company president. "[With the growth], we realized our systems werent up to par and that we needed an enterprise-level system.

"We had to use a [PC-based system], along with FileMaker and 4th Dimension, databases that are available for the Mac," said Martin.

Marware will beta test the PowerEasy solution and expects to install the system by next quarter.

"Thats whats so exciting. Its true ERP with a solid Mac base," said Martin. "Up until about a year ago, [Mac OS X] did not exist. There was nothing available."

The Sybase database will solve some problems around speed of data access, data reliability, data integrity and scalability for Marware. It will also provide a central place to keep the companys data.

One key that is making the PowerEasy suite possible is Apples latest upgrade to the Mac operating system, Mac OS X Version 10.2, which began shipping in August. The software, formerly code-named Jaguar, differs from earlier versions dramatically because it is based on Unix.

"Its just much more stable, and it has opened up the platform to enterprise [applications]," said Martin. "[Mac OS] is supposed to be a graphical platform, but it was really weak on the business end."

Small and midsize companies that could choose PowerEasy ERP 1.0 also will have Windows-based ERP options from Microsoft Corp.s Great Plains and Navision lines of business software, as well as from NetLedger Inc.s Oracle Small Business Suite. With so many companies already using Windows-based systems for core application functionality such as accounting, some analysts said PowerEasy will face an uphill battle finding customers outside the fervent Mac base.

"Sybase and Mac reseller channels are not schooled in selling enterprise applications," said Bob Parker, an analyst at AMR Research Inc. "Theyve got a snowballs chance in hell of breaking out beyond their installed base.

"At best, this is going to be a niche product," said Parker, in Boston. "The Mac is a great operating system, but their prospects for an enterprise system are pretty slim."

Pricing is another factor that could play a role in gaining customers. Pricing for PowerEasy ERP software and infrastructure starts at about $80,000 per machine—about 20 percent less than comparable Windows-based solutions, Sybase officials said.