Open Market Pins Future on Content Server

E-commerce software pioneer Open Market Inc. was one of the first purveyors of order management and storefront server software

E-commerce software pioneer Open Market Inc. was one of the first purveyors of order management and storefront server software.

But when the Burlington, Mass., company launches its Content Server Enterprise Edition and a new strategy built around content management applications this week, it is, in effect, closing the door on that past and looking to begin a new era.

The Content Server Enterprise Edition family is an update to the technology that Open Market acquired from Future Tense Inc. in July 1999.

The Java-based suite of products features a new application for e-marketing campaigns called Marketing Studio. It has enhancements to existing products, including support for larger and more complex catalogs; Extensible Markup Language document exchange; improved SAP AG R/3 integration; and support for new platforms.

But as Open Market shifts its focus to the content management space, it brings with it a lot of baggage—falling revenues, soaring losses and relatively new top management.

"We worry about [Open Markets financial condition] every day," said Chris Rousseau, vice president of technology at Business Week Online, in New York, and a customer of Open Markets Transact order management and Content Server products. "We think that over a rational time horizon, theyll still be around to support us. Can I tell you that theyll still be around two years from now? No, but I cant tell you that anybody will still be around two years from now."

Its no wonder that Open Market wants to put the turmoil of the past year behind it. Last June, it was hit with a class action shareholder lawsuit claiming it made false statements about its products and competitive position. President and CEO Ron Matros quit in July, followed in October by Chief Financial Officer Betty Savage and Senior Vice President of Worldwide Field Operations Greg Pope. All the while, Open Markets financial fortunes turned from bad to worse, with sales falling and losses mounting.

Sales of its Transact order management and ShopSite e-storefront software continue to plummet, and Open Market has scaled back on development of the products. The company has publicly stated plans to divest itself of ShopSite. Sources indicate that Open Market will soon outsource support for Transact or possibly sell the product outright to Trilogy Software Inc., of Sayreville, N.J., a subsidiary of computer services company Chrysalis Information Systems Ltd., of Bombay, India.

Transact user, of Atlanta, is negotiating with Open Market for the Transact source code so it can maintain and upgrade the product and add new features itself. "We need to mitigate our risks," said Chief Technology Officer Edmond Mesrobian. "Then well start investigating alternative solutions."

As the application service provider market slowed, so did demand for Transact, Open Markets flagship product. By Open Markets own admission, the product did not meet enterprise customers demands, since it was designed as a proprietary silo, when companies, instead, require order management applications that integrate with their other customer interaction applications such as customer service, campaign management and visitor analytics.

While Open Market does offer middleware to bring Transact together with Content Server, many of its competitors offer more tightly integrated order management and content management solutions.

Mesrobian does not think Open Market should abandon Transact. "Its still a very worthy product," he said.