Software Development and Innovation in Ireland 1998-2005

For many years, Enterprise Ireland has been publishing a monthly enewletter on the Irish Software industry. The newsletter typically covered the advances (and setbacks) of the indigenous software industry in Ireland. Sadly it has come to an end (for what reason I’m not quite sure). First published in 1998, the Software Focus newsletter covered the new .Com-related or inspired software companies that flourished in Ireland at that time. Its probably worth noting that the
software and the ICT industry in general had been well established in Ireland at that stage. Many of the first generation MNC subsidiaries in Ireland had been developing software products and services for years. It was this solid base plus the 3rd level institutions that gave the country the technical and managerial skill base to grow these new industries.

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SOFTWARE FOCUS – 15 December 2005 – Issue 194

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Software Focus has been a Newsmail production for Enterprise Ireland.

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This is the final edition of Software Focus. During its eight years of
publication, the service has charted the evolution of software
development in Ireland, examining the overall trends in ‘In Focus’
features and reporting on the ups and downs of individual
companies and projects. This farewell issue takes stock of how the
industry has evolved, recalling some of the landmarks from eight
eventful years.

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SOFTWARE RE-FOCUS 1998-2005

Software Focus was launched in March 1998 to deliver information
about Irish software to readers around the world. It was, and has
remained, the only publication in the country that was entirely
devoted to news and views from the software industry.

Some of the topics that seemed important in the early years have
lost their urgency. Others have taken their place. Several themes,
however, have been constant.

Software vendors must choose to develop horizontal applications
that contribute to the general IT infrastructure or vertical
products that are only relevant to specific businesses. Should they
adopt Java or commit themselves to Microsoft toolsets ? Seek
direct sales or set up an indirect channel ? Engage with institutional
investors or try to get by without them ?

In addition, there has always been a wide range of views on the best
way to take a piece of academic research and turn it into the basis
for a commercial venture.

Online distribution for software packages looked like a major issue
in 1998. The emphasis has gradually shifted to delivering software
as managed services on the internet. Back then e-commerce was
frequently cited as a driver of change and public key infrastructure
was a hot technology. Now open source is billed as a disruptive
force and development firms want to be seen to embrace service
oriented architectures.

In 1998 the conventional wisdom among product developers was
that they should seek their fortunes in America. The United States
had become the biggest single market for Irish software two years
earlier. First timers could now avail of tried and tested routes to
market in North America.

In the years that followed, however, software spending slowed
down in the US and other regions started to look more attractive.
The ‘Who Goes Where’ listings in Software Focus reflected the
industry’s efforts to make a mark in different geographies. The
majority of the exhibitions and conferences in which Irish
companies participate have always been in the US or on the
western Europe circuit. But other locations, including eastern
Europe and southeast Asia, Australia and South America, have
gradually become more prominent.

The years charted by Software Focus might perhaps be labelled as
the globetrotting era for Irish software.

* 1998

Pebblesoft Learning, Flexicom, International Translation &
Publishing, Software and Systems Engineering. Saleslan, Sepro
Telecom, Feramo International and Avail Corporation have two
things in common. All of these companies were featured in the first
issue of Software Focus. And none of them are with us any more.

There is nothing remarkable about their disappearances. The
attrition rate among software firms has always been higher than in
other lines of business. Mergers and acquisitions take a constant
toll. Old names fade away and new ones emerge all the time.

Start-up activity was brisk in 1998. Irish-based developers had
performed exceptionally well in the previous year. The industry’s
total exports, excluding shipments by foreign firms with
localisation or packaging operations in Ireland, had increased by
40 per cent in 1997 and were worth EUR 637 million. The boom
had started earlier in the decade when a handful of pioneers
showed how to achieve volume sales in North America. By 1998
dozens of contenders were making inroads into the US.

The biggest exporters included CBT Group and Iona. Both firms
were becoming well known outside the IT world, because they had
listed their shares on stock exchanges. It was commonly assumed,
indeed, that more software firms would choose to go public.

Venture capital was now more easily available than in former years
and, in general, the software producers had welcomed this option
as an alternative to financial support from the state agencies. In
1998 about half a dozen Irish funds were willing to back software
ventures and there was talk for the first time of ‘fishing
expeditions’ to Dublin by international funds.

The accumulated investment by venture capitalists in Irish software
firms was still, however, very modest. One estimate put the total at
less than EUR 20 million – a much lower sum than the prevailing
hype suggested. A single deal during the summer pushed up this
figure. Payment management systems vendor Trintech obtained
USD 20 million from a predominantly American investment
consortium. Trintech proceeded to place its shares on exchanges in
the US and Germany in 1999.

A deal of this magnitude provided one index of how the software
industry was evolving. The most impressive statistic, though, was
the number of Irish-owned firms that had managed to develop and
launch software applications abroad. One 1998 survey identified
more than 550 companies with international activities or
aspirations.

It looked like a good time to choose a career in software
development. In 1998 more than one in eight undergraduates on
degree courses in Ireland was studying for a computing
qualification.

Some of the biggest names in the software business today were in
their formative years. These included vertical market specialists
like Curam Software and Norkom Technologies. Curam was still
known as IT Design, when it introduced a development framework
for social security agencies in 1998. This launch introduced Curam
as a product title. Norkom started trading in 1998. The company,
which eventually found its niche in fraud detection software for
banks, initially offered consulting services and methodologies that
analysed the ‘customer intelligence value chain’.

One of the stories in the first issue of Software Focus flagged the
phenomenon that later became known as Y2K. Curiously, though,
the first mention of the millennium date change problem involved
a museum exhibit. Limerick firm Piercom had designed a diagnostic
toolset to identify potential risks inside existing code. In March
1998 this product was admitted to the software archive at the
Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

The introduction of the euro was another looming challenge for
software developers. In June a Dublin company played a part in the
first transaction conducted through the new currency. Visa
International and Belgium’s Bank Card Company employed payment
software from Flexicom in a demonstration exercise. They used a
card valued in euro to purchase a wristwatch.

Encryption tool developer Baltimore Technologies was also keen on
public demonstrations. In September it enlisted US President Bill
Clinton and Taoiseach Bertie Ahern to show off its UniCert security
software. The two leaders used digital certificates for the first
electronic signing of an inter-governmental agreement.

Looking back on the first year of Software Focus, it is striking how
foreign-owned firms were then awarding development contracts to
teams in Ireland – the sort of assignments that routinely went to
India in later years. Corel, for example, allowed its localisation
facility in Dublin to create a project tracking tool. By 1998 this had
evolved into Catalyst, a commercial product that translation groups
outside Corel could buy. Two years later the team behind Catalyst
broke away from Corel and evolved into Alchemy Software
Development.

* 1999

The biggest software story of the year broke in February. Fore
Systems broke the record for the price paid to acquire an Irish
development company. It agreed to fork out about USD 81 million
in stock for Euristix, the developer of the Raceman EMSX element
management system for telecommunications operators. That figure
swelled to around USD 175 million in April, when Marconi agreed
to buy Fore. The Euristix shareholders not only received more than
they had expected. They also received cash.

Two less celebrated acquisitions, in contrast, promised much, but
delivered very little. GE Information Services took over Office
Integrated Solutions and its Purchasing Expert procurement
software. Software AG bought Software Computing Power and
signalled that it would build a research and development centre
around the company’s mainframe expertise. The value of these
deals was not reported and both unravelled in the following years.
GE sold Purchasing Expert back to its developers for a nominal sum
in 2002 and Software AG wound down its Irish operation in the
following year.

A more encouraging trend was the emergence of new companies
whose founders had already built successful businesses.

Terry and Mary O’Brien, who had previously led Mindware and sold
it to the Gartner Group, established a new e-learning venture in
Limerick. Initially launched as Neville Technology Group, this start-
up later changed its name to PrimeLearning. Ossidian Technologies
was another e-learning debutante with an experienced management
team. It set out to produce training applications in mobile
communications.

The founders of Network365, which started operations in the
summer, came from internet messaging and directory software
vendor Isocor. Their previous venture was headquartered in
California, but had developed its core products in Dublin. The new
firm, though, would be driven from Ireland. Network365, which is
now known as Valista, carved out a niche with software for online
sales and payment processes.

Lakefield Associates was another newcomer from an unusual
background. It had started life in Britain as a provider of consulting
services to electricity companies. In 1999 it launched an
international sales drive from a new base in Dungarvan. Lakefield
offered a software product that helped electricity suppliers to
respond to service faults. Now renamed LeT Systems and based in
Cork, this company offers a broad suite of operations management
applications for utilities.

University College Dublin campus company ChangingWorlds was
another member of the class of ’99. From its inception,
ChangingWorlds set out to apply personalisation software in
original ways. In its early days it tried to create a web-based
television listings service. Later on, it discovered that mobile
network operators could benefit from its technology.

Regional industry associations were also popping up around the
country at the tail end of the 1990s. A group in the southwest,
it@cork, held its first major conference in January 1999. At this
event a government minister announced plans for an incubation
facility for new software firms in Cork. This initiative came in the
wake of a Fas report that software employment in the city was
lagging behind Limerick, the home of the ShannonSoft association,
and Galway, where another regional group was launched in 2000.

The first reference in Software Focus to an Irish company with an
application service provider (ASP) strategy appeared in 1999.
Dublin-based eWare reported that it would offer its customer
relationship management software as a managed service through
ASP partners in the US. Accpac International acquired eWare in
2003 and the organisation eventually became part of Sage Group.

* 2000

The new millennium arrived without triggering the digital
apocalypse that the alarmist fringes of the Y2K movement had
prophesied.

The first weeks of the new century saw a show of strength by the
mobile applications wing of the Irish software industry. A large
contingent trooped down to Cannes to exhibit at the GSM World
Congress. This annual event, indeed, became a regular showcase
for applications developed in Ireland. Software Focus commented
that the 2000 congress introduced the country’s second wave of
mobile software vendors. Anam, Jinny Software, Macalla Software
and Xiam were among the firms that displayed their wares.

In 2000 the e-commerce bubble was showing signs of strain, but it
had still not burst. The most prominent enthusiasts tended to come
from consulting firms rather than applications software companies.
Nonetheless, the Irish industry threw up several software service
ventures with extravagant ambitions – companies that promised to
turn dull old-world organisations into bright web-endowed e-
businesses. Examples included Digital Channel Partners, Trinity
Technology Group and Oniva.

These outfits tended to be rather pushy and Trinity Commerce was
the most aggressive of the bunch. In February the company
changed its name to Ebeon, declared its intention to become ‘a
global leader in e-business transformation’ and announced that it
would invest USD 10 million on overseas expansion in 2000.
Almost as an afterthought, it allocated USD 2 million to software
development. Ebeon proceeded to open a network of sales offices
and made sure that its brochures looked cooler than its
competitors’. But the company ceased trading in January 2001.

Other firms embraced XML standards and stuck around for the
long haul. Propylon, which based its name on the Greek word for
portal was one of the first to implement this new technology. Its
chief technology officer Sean McGrath was a member of the World
Wide Web Consortium’s XML working group. The new firm
developed software tools and undertook demonstration projects.
By 2001 it could claim credit for one of the world’s largest XML
repositories – a searchable archive of the scripts of every
parliamentary debate in Ireland since independence.

Vordel, meanwhile, positioned itself at the intersection between
XML and online security. The company’s strategy took shape after
it acquired another Dublin firm, electronic trading software
supplier Delphium Technologies, in early 2000.

Software product developers could still net large rewards by selling
off their businesses. In June 2000 Atlanta-based Clarus Corporation
paid USD 30 million in cash plus USD 30 million in shares to
acquire Limerick company Software Architects International (SAI).
Clarus was keen to obtain SAI’s international payment settlement
technology. The US firm’s initial offer was a shares-only package
worth a whopping USD 175 million. The SAI team shrewdly
negotiated terms that would put real money into the bank. When
the e-commerce bust came, Clarus was a prominent casualty. Two
years after buying SAI, Clarus sold its assets for a mere USD 1
million.

The ASP movement, meanwhile, made slow but steady progress.
Cognotec, a long-established foreign exchange application
developer, was a notable convert to the cause, announcing an
internet-based dealing service that financial institutions could sell
under their own brands.

In general, though, much more was heard about the construction
of hosting centres and other infrastructural resources for ASPs
than about the conversion of software products into managed
services. Network service providers, computer hardware vendors
and specialist hosting companies opened, or announced plans to
build, data centres around Ireland.

Another sign of changing times in the global software industry
appeared in April, when the first ever Irish software trade mission
to India took place. The governments of the two countries signed a
formal co-operation pact and their software trade associations
announced a bilateral agreement.

The underlying message was that no one with an interest in
software could ignore the mass of development talent in India,
where the universities were turning out 65,000 IT graduates a year.
Irish software companies were slower than their counterparts
elsewhere to tap into this skill base, but Software Focus reported
that banking components vendor Eontec, plant management
application supplier PMI Software and airline reservations specialist
Datalex had already commissioned Indian partners to work on their
products.

Datacare, on the other hand, opted to make use of Russian talent,
recruiting staff for its development centre in Monaghan through an
agency in Moscow. This was a pivotal year for Datacare, which had
majored in compliance software for corporate legal departments
since the 1980s, starting in Ireland and later expanding into Britain
and Canada. In 2000 the company launched a new product
generation, built on a web-based architecture, and embarked on its
first systematic campaign to sign up customers in the US.

This was also the year that open source software started to feature
in Software Focus stories. The main question for Irish-based
companies, though, was whether their product sets should include
versions that would run on Linux. No one was yet suggesting that
they might entrust code development or maintenance to
communities of volunteer developers. Sun’s software centre in
Dublin, on the other hand, dived into open source at the deep end,
leading a project to release the source code of its StarOffice
desktop suite to an independent governance body.

* 2001

Managed Solutions Corporation changed its name to Fineos as the
new year began. The financial applications developer had gradually
built up a customer base, mainly in the UK and the Netherlands,
and expanded its product set from a base in customer relationship
management to a suite of administrative applications for banks and
insurance companies. The Dublin company had achieved sales of
EUR 13.5 million in 2000. This was a time when mainstream
financial institutions were reining in their IT budgets, following a
burst of expenditure on internet-based services. The environment
was far from favourable for the renamed Fineos, but it managed to
push up its annual revenues to EUR 24.3 million in 2001.

Exaltec had also targeted CRM for financial services, but had a very
different story to tell. In 1999 it had launched Venture, a sales
support system that incorporated data mining techniques, in
Britain and the US. In the following year it was plunged into a legal
dispute with Enba, a short-lived financial services firm from the dot
com stable, over the rights to Venture. Exaltec was forced to
abandon its product strategy, but resurfaced in 2001 as a provider
of software migration tools. It went on to forge a productive
partnership with IBM.

Openet Telecom was another company that seemed to be on the
rise at the start of 2001. Chief executive officer Barry Murphy
revealed at an investment conference in Dublin that Openet had
recently landed the world’s biggest order for telecoms mediation
software from AT&T Wireless. By the middle of the year it claimed
20 operators as customers and noted that most of these had opted
for its technology in the aftermath of the AT&T deal.

Openet had already been around for several years in a series of
different guises. Many of the stories in Software Focus, however,
conveyed the sense that a younger generation of Irish companies
was beginning to make an impact. Their common characteristic
was a deep level of specialisation in their chosen vertical markets.

Dublin-based Havok, for example, was selling a physics engine to
games developers and trying to make a mark in movie special
effects as well. Originally known as Telekinesys, the company had
recently taken over a Munich firm, Ipion, and expanded the range
of tasks that its applied physics tools could handle.

Am-Beo from Galway emerged as a developer of rating engines for
the telecommunications industry. The team that had built and sold
SAI regrouped and set up Narragansett Technologies in Limerick.
Waterford Technologies launched its MailMeter family of
monitoring and reporting tools for e-mail administrators. And
mobile applications specialist Alatto attracted attention through a
mixture of consulting services and product ideas.

As the year progressed, however, the mood in the industry grew
cautious. It was widely known that IT expenditure had slumped in
the US, the principal market for Irish software. Most of the
established exporters maintained that the cutbacks were affecting
areas other than their own. But it was evident that newer firms
were struggling to win orders from North America. The economic
repercussions of the September attacks on New York and
Washington exacerbated this trend.

Some of the biggest software names to come out of Ireland had
effectively turned into Irish-American organisations with
permanent management teams and development groups on the
other side of the Atlantic. Iona was a prominent example and Cape
Clear Software, which was established in 1999 by three former Iona
employees, had taken the same route.

Iona held a small stake in Cape Clear, but by 2001 it was apparent
that these firms were on a collision course. Both were developing
integration software to support web services. Within months they
would be ensnared in a court case, with Iona trying to stop the
younger rival from poaching a senior US-based executive.

Against this backdrop Infoconomist magazine named Cape Clear as
one of Europe’s top ten technology start-ups at the end of the year.
Network365 and Bluetooth middleware developer Rococo Software
also made this list. The global market for software products had
weakened. But the Irish industry could still produce three of the
firms in a European top ten.

* 2002

Vision had been one of the largest players in the Irish software
industry since the 1980s, but its preference for consulting and
bespoke development had always set it apart from the pack. The
company liked to build long-term engagements with a small set of
customers. It based its charges on the value that its work created
for these organisations, rather than on fixed prices or daily billing
rates. In 2000 and 2001 Vision concentrated its resources on
projects for just two clients – Intelligent Finance in Britain and
Warner Music Group in the US. It earned fees of around USD 100
million from these two relationships.

By 2002, however, large, multi-year contracts were hard to find.
Vision embarked on its first sales campaign for several years and
found itself working on a broader set of smaller projects.

This shift to more modest and more targeted projects illustrated a
general change in software development and implementation. In
addition, Vision found it necessary to cast its net across more
countries. Most notably, it undertook a number of public sector
contracts in Mexico. These came its way after the company had
acquired Business Design Associates, a consulting partner with
offices in California, Mexico and Chile.

Across the board, indeed, the Irish software industry was now
touting for business in places other than the US.

The first story about a development company opening a sales office
in China appeared in 2002. Iona had set up a branch in Beijing
towards the end of the previous year. Network365 sold its
electronic wallet software to Hong Kong-based Hutchison 3G and
went on to win an even larger deal with NTT DoCoMo in Japan.
Codec, meanwhile, was expanding in central Europe, hiring
software engineers in Poland and winning business intelligence
deals in Germany. LeT Systems reported a multi-million euro
contract in South Africa. Jinny Software sold messaging systems to
mobile operators across the Middle East and banking application
supplier CR2 tailored its BankWorld system to suit institutions in
developing countries.

New names that appeared in Software Focus during 2002 included
SteelTrace, which released the first edition of its Catalyze
requirements capture and management suite, and Similarity
Systems, which named the Irish Patents Office as the first adopter
of its data quality management tools. Daon, a biometric technology
specialist formed two years earlier, revealed its plans to seek new
markers for an identity authentication engine, and won contracts
from the European Commission to draw up a ten-year roadmap for
proof-of-identity technologies and to establish a European
Biometric Forum.

The least predictable software phenomenon of the year, perhaps,
was the simultaneous emergence of several companies with
systems that enabled drivers to pay parking fees through mobile
phones. ItsMobile, Parking Partners and ParkbyPhone were the most
prominent contenders. Although they were able to find pilot users
for their applications, the uptake of this technology has remained
very low.

It also became apparent in 2002 that computing graduates were
having problems finding software jobs. The colleges had pushed up
the number of places on their courses during the boom years of
the late 1990s and record numbers of students were now
graduating. News of their difficulties filtered down to school
leavers and there was a decline in demand for places on software
degree courses.

* 2003

Early issues of Software Focus contained regular stories about
companies that were glad to accept finance packages from venture
capitalists. By the time that the publication reached its fifth
birthday, however, this wheel had turned a full circle. The software
industry was all too familiar with investment deals that had turned
out badly for the founders and managers of Irish firms. Newer
companies had therefore become wary about the venture capital
model.

According to Paul O’Dea, who chaired the Irish Software
Association, the younger generation now assumed that they would
have to make their businesses work without external funding. Some
looked for private backers. Others had reverted to the traditional
‘bootstrap’ strategy of financing software development through
sales.

Another option that had worked for product developers in the past
was to seek patronage from one of the major technology vendors.
Galway-based BrightWork provided a textbook example of this
technique in 2002. For years the company, which had previously
traded as Aimware, sold collaboration software to other
application developers. Its products assisted software teams to
manage their workloads and raise their productivity. Then
Microsoft asked it to support MSF, a process framework used by
the corporation’s own developers. Microsoft not only became
BrightWork’s largest customer. It also invited the company to run
demonstrations of the system at a series of events for its partners
and customers.

Compliance management was a recurring theme in the software
news for 2003. Companies like Qumas and Automsoft had been
active in this area for years, developing applications that assisted
users to stay in line with the regulations governing pharmaceuticals
production and food safety. These firms were now achieving record
sales.

Cork-based Qumas reported a 25 per cent revenue rise for 2002
and annual sales of about USD 10 million. And a Frost & Sullivan
study reckoned that the company had obtained 24 per cent of the
global market. Automsoft, whose Rapid-Pharma system supported
archives of production data for process industries, reported sales
to eight of the world’s top 20 pharmaceutical companies.

WBT Systems moved into compliance management from a very
different direction. The company had packaged and marketed its
TopClass e-learning administration system in a variety of guises
since the mid-1990s, but took on a fresh lease of life when it
introduced TopClass Compliance. Financial services and
manufacturing companies adopted this suite to co-ordinate their
internal training schemes with the accreditation rules laid down by
regulatory bodies.

Rapid Technology Group, meanwhile, underwent a more radical
change in direction. It sold off its original business as a developer
of keyboard technology for point-of-sale equipment and
announced plans to open up a new market for e-learning products
among individual users outside educational establishments and
workplaces. The company changed its name to ThirdForce and
embarked on a series of acquisitions, starting with another Dublin
firm, Electric Paper Company.

Three other acquisition stories in 2003 were also noteworthy.

A US firm, Betrusted, bought Baltimore Technologies’ UniCert
product set, retaining an engineering and support unit in Dublin.
The new owner subsequently evolved into Cybertrust. Sita
Information Networking Computing took over Eland Technologies,
a middleware company that specialised in airline systems. Sita
ramped up employment at the former Eland base in Letterkenny,
which soon became its centre of expertise in web and desktop
applications. At the other end of the country, WatchMark acquired
Cork company Comnitel Technologies, whose software enabled
wireless operators to manage their service quality.

Among the emerging firms that featured during the year was
another Cork-based venture, Selatra, which had developed a
distribution platform that downloaded games to mobile phones.
Selatra soon concluded that it should operate as a publisher and
delivery service instead of selling its software in a packaged
format. By mid-2004 it had signed up more than 25 retailers and
17 games suppliers. Later in the year Selatra added China Mobile
Communications Corporation, the world’s largest GSM network
operator, to its customer list.

* 2004

The global telecommunications industry had invested heavily, and
not always wisely, in its infrastructure in the 1990s and slashed its
spending in the following years. By 2004, however, the prospects
for telco software developers had brightened again and new
companies were showing off their wares.

Dun Laoghaire-based Shenick, for example, offered original
technology for the changing times. Its diversifEye platform
combined the functions of a service emulation system with those of
a network performance analysis tool. It arrived on the
telecommunications scene at the same time as triple play services
that carried voice, data and video traffic through a common
network. The quality control challenges posed by these hybrids
were particularly complex and diversifEye was designed to address
them.

Shenick had started life in 2000 as a contract developer and took
its time to choose a product niche. It initially targeted diversifEye
at network operators and won its first order in 2003. By the
following year, however, network equipment vendors around the
world had latched onto the capabilities of the system and it was
clear that the company was onto a winner.

Corvil, which emerged from the Dublin Institute of Advanced
Studies with a quality of service platform for internet protocol
networks, was also part of the new network software wave. So were
Netsure Telecom and Prime Carrier, which subsequently acquired
Am-Beo.

A cluster of games software firms also made news in 2004. More
accurately, two interdependent groups of companies were on the
rise. Firms like Eirplay, Kapooki and Upstart designed complete
games, while vendors like DemonWare and Torc Interactive sought
to emulate Havok’s success with tools and components for games
developers.

Spatial software initiatives also cropped up more frequently in
2004 and the mobile applications sector was as lively as ever. The
resilience of this cluster has been quite extraordinary. Throughout
the Software Focus era, analysts have warned that the market was
ripe for consolidation and would not continue to sustain a large
number of small development companies. Nonetheless, new ideas
kept on surfacing. New firms like Altobridge, Arantech, Cibenix and
Idiro joined the established players and reported solid growth.

The most intriguing story of the year, perhaps, was the
transformation of Wilde Technologies. This company had emerged
from Trinity College Dublin earlier in the decade, offering an
‘architecture implementation platform’ that integrated the design
rules and assembly processes for component-based software
development. The first release of Wilde’s software took the form of
a conventional product. In 2004, however, the company scaled
down to a skeleton operation and unveiled version 2.0 of its
software as an open source technology called Oscar. Other Irish
companies had dabbled in open source licensing. Here, however,
was a full-blown case study.

In general, the mood in the software industry in 2004 was more
optimistic than in the preceding years. But there was also a feeling
that fundamental changes were on imminent. Software Focus asked
a selection of industry figures to comment on the prospects for the
second half of the decade. Most believed that the industry would
become more service-oriented or suggested that the traditional
distinction between software products and software services was
fading away.

* 2005

What, then, is the state of Irish software today ?

In 2005, as in 1998, hundreds of Irish software companies are
active on the international stage. Their offerings are generally
aimed at narrower audiences than in the past, but their geographic
reach has become wider. Experience is valuable, while industry
specific expertise is now essential.

It is arguably more difficult for a start-up to get off the ground in
2005 than in 1998. The trend to specialisation has raised the
barrier for new entrants to the industry. As a result the rate of new
product releases is somewhat slower.

Software-as-a-service is here to stay, but it has evolved in a more
organic way than was predicted by the early evangelists of the ASP
model. We are getting near the point where software buyers will
routinely tick a box to say if they want to install products on their
own computers or to log onto them through the internet.

The open source model is also going to be a permanent feature of
the software landscape. Its impact on the Irish industry is still
limited, but will increase as more open source consortia take on
responsibility for the development and maintenance of vertical
market applications.

Ireland continues to punch above its weight in the software trade
and to produce high flying companies. As the past eight years have
shown, however, software business models change just as fast as
software development techniques. If not faster.

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Software Focus Issue 194
Copyright 2005 (c) Enterprise Ireland. All rights reserved. Not-for-
profit reproduction of this material is permitted once full
attribution is made.

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  1. #1 by Conor O'Neill on January 11, 2006 - 8:46 am

    The last issue makes for interesting reading and possibly highlights the problem that Software Focus had. They seem to have had a very narrow “focus” on certain types of business (mainly e-business and Web-bubble from what I can see).

    If you look back to their description of 2000, there is no mention of my old employer Integral Design. This was an Embedded Software and IC Design House started in 1995 and bought by Xilinx in 2000.

    They grew to almost 50 employees and were backed by EI. They did not sell for peanuts. But because they were never part of the buzz and hype of that time, this great Irish success story was ignored and has been forgotten by most people except for those of us lucky to have worked there.

    I get the feeling that Web 2.0 is the same thing all over again. You are either part of this very very small niche (in genuine revenue terms) and get tons of press/blog coverage or you are not interesting.

    I think maybe Software Focus has just become irrelevant for most people who have access to all the same information (and far more) by other means.

  2. #2 by john m on January 17, 2006 - 4:38 pm

    Hi Conor, Thanks for commenting on the blog entry. I agree pretty much with your sentiments. I don’t we were ever mentioned by software focus – well maybe once.. It did feed on the internet energy that was doing the rounds predominately in dublin and as such was a bit of an insight into what was going on there. I will miss it but I do understand where you are coming from.

    Regarding web2.0 – How about mediahype 2.0 – have a read of https://blog.decaresystems.ie/wordpress/?author=3

  3. #3 by Yahoouj on February 14, 2010 - 1:38 am

    Really good work about this website was done. Keep trying more – thanks!

  4. #4 by Ann Twomey on July 21, 2011 - 11:04 am

    Nice Article
    CBT Dublin

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