ChannelManager: The market

October 20, 1997

Seybold Report on Internet Publishing
Vol 2, No 2

Pool describes DataChannel’s market as "huge companies with routing and productivity problems." It will go first into businesses, such as financial brokers, that put a premium on instant access to the right information and have no trouble justifying the cost of technology that improves this access.

To date, ChannelManager has fewer than ten paid clients, but each is a substantial installation. The largest is Koch Industries, with over 1,000 seats under ChannelManager. In addition, there are 300 beta installations of ChannelManager preview release 2, which can be downloaded free from the DataChannel site.

To prime the pump, DataChannel has created ChannelWorld, an online resource directory of information on push and XML. Until XML breaks out of its latency stage, ChannelWorld is also a good test bed for the company’s XML browser.

The competition. Several companies compete with DataChannel to provide centralized management of user profiles, but most administer the content only, not the user interface, and they do so with CDF, not yet with RDF or other XML applications. Other systems build channels with Java applets or JavaScript rather than data markup. Basing the channel on data rather than on a program makes the channel less vulnerable to application upgrades and platform incompatibilities. For this reason, we expect publishers to get behind the CDF, RDF and XML efforts, because these standards will enable them to create channels that work across a variety of tools. If that happens, other "push" vendors, such as PointCast and BackWeb will be vying with DataChannel for the privilege of managing your channels and desktops.

Like every other software vendor, especially those in the "push" market, DataChannel has to base its game plan, in part, on what Netscape and Microsoft will be doing. Netscape’s Mission Control is a multiple-channel management system, but it is not—no surprise here—browser independent. DataChannel’s Web site features a blow-by-blow comparison of Mission Channel and ChannelManager.

As we went to press, the Gates view of the role of XML in the enterprise and on the desktop has not been released, so it is too soon to say how fiercely Microsoft will compete for desktop management. However, it seems unlikely that Gates will leave the execution of his vision of the browser-based desktop to others to realize.

DataChannel has been able to attract top talent, which may help it stay ahead of the pack. Norbert Mikula, a recent engineering graduate from the University of Klagenfurt in Austria who wrote one of the first XML parsers, was courted, or at least flirted with, by no less than ten companies. Along with Mikula, DataChannel obtained the license to NXP—Norbert’s XML Parser. The firm plans to blend it with its existing XML parser and an API written by John Tigue, providing a complete XML application development environment for Java. Tigue is a member of the W3C XML Working Group, which is responsible for the standard.