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 December 3, 1999

Location, Java gives Platypus competitive edge

BOULDER – In July 1996, when Australians Fiona Wilkie, Dave Finnie and Andrew Duckworth and American Carol Flaig founded Platypus Partners LLC, Java had not yet established itself as the vogue code for development.

Platypus, then a software developer based in Sydney, Australia, opted to code its products in Java over HTML, a choice that gave the company a huge jump on its competition. “We went with Java, and that was correct,´ said Wilkie, the company’s president, noting that the market for Java-based applications has exploded in the interim.

Platypus Partners developed a pair of Java-based terminal emulators that allow remote users access to Tandem and IBM mainframes via the Web — JET 3270 and JET 6530. While the applications were an economical option on an expensive market and required no additional hardware to run, the software proved to be a difficult sell to Australian companies.

“Australia is a relatively small market,” explained Wilkie, with a “more conservative mentality.” The United States beckoned, and a second office was opened in Boulder in November 1997.

Boulder was chosen as an American hub for several reasons, among them the founder’s familiarity with the city. Flaig previously had worked with Duckworth and Finnie in Sydney for a Tandem software developer then based in Boulder. “It’s a great place to live, and it’s becoming a bigger industry name,” Wilkie said, noting that Boulder is the fifth largest software development center in the country. “If we were really going to sell it, we were going to have to be here (in the U.S.),” explained Flaig, since “85 percent of worldwide software sales” occur here. Thus, the company opened up shop on Middle Fork Road in Boulder and set out to market their product to the American throngs.

“The biggest hurdle we had to jump was PR and marketing,” Wilkie noted. Initially, Platypus focused on marketing its product through the Internet, because of its inexpensive nature and relevance to their products. The virtual world, however, proved to be too limiting, so the company hired Metzger Associates, a Boulder-based public relations firm. “It was the best thing we ever did,” Wilkie added. “Our focus was sort of tunnel vision toward the Internet. (We) forgot that traditional business methods apply.”

Success followed the establishment of a sound public relations strategy. Current Platypus clients include MasterCard, Bell Atlantic, Motorola, the U.S. Department of Defense and the University of Colorado.

The company followed its release of the JET emulators with that of JET API, in the words of Flaig, “a simple development tool” which allows companies to present a more contemporary front end (read: Web interface) while their back-end mainframe is modernized to a Web or client server architecture. What JET API really buys users is time, said Flaig. “(Companies) can take a year or two and figure out what they want to do with the mainframe.”

Most of Platypus’ competitors offer similar products, said Wilkie, but the products tend to be prohibitively expensive or require additional programming or hardware to install. The only other company that currently produces a stand-alone terminal emulator along the lines of the JET products is IBM.

Bernard Argenzio, president of Platypus client www.i3270.com Inc., a Richmond, Va.-based Internet services provider, chose JET out of 100 similar products to offer to his clients as part a bundle of related products.

“Their product didn’t require any extra hardware,” he said of the JET applications. “It was amazingly easy to install. We looked at a lot of different products. Theirs was the best.” The fact that it is entirely written in Java, said Argenzio, is the crux of its innovation. “They’re on the front wave of all of (the Java-based applications developers),” he noted. “They’ve come out with this before their competitors. They’ve focused on it like a laser beam.”

The likely next step in Platypus’ continuing evolution is to develop applications that provide back end connectivity — that is, software that allows mainframes to communicate directly with one another, rather than via front end interfaces. Once again, Java is the language that could allow for a less-expensive option in a market where costs are currently exorbitant.

Like the creature of its namesake, Platypus Partners has adapted well to a rapidly changing world. “They’re … an agile company,´ said Argenzio. “They use the Internet very well. They work like they’re next door.”

BOULDER – In July 1996, when Australians Fiona Wilkie, Dave Finnie and Andrew Duckworth and American Carol Flaig founded Platypus Partners LLC, Java had not yet established itself as the vogue code for development.

Platypus, then a software developer based in Sydney, Australia, opted to code its products in Java over HTML, a choice that gave the company a huge jump on its competition. “We went with Java, and that was correct,´ said Wilkie, the company’s president, noting that the market for Java-based applications has exploded in the interim.

Platypus Partners developed a pair of Java-based terminal emulators that allow remote…

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