BEA acquires Plumtree for $263m

BEA Systems wants a bigger slice of the portal market and has announced its intention to purchase portal vendor Plumtree Software for $263 million ($US200 million) to take it there.

Plumtree will become part of a new business unit for BEA which describes its own J2EE-based portal platform, WebLogic Portal, as a transactional portal. Plumtree's product suite includes a portal designed for non-technical business users and related products for collaboration, search, analytics, and content management.

Alfred Chuang, BEA chairman and CEO, said customers will have access to both transactional and collaborative products and technologies, with BEA planning to be the only vendor to offer a portal that spans both J2EE and .Net.

"The portal is becoming the [central] point of integration in the enterprise," Chuang said.

"With the acquisition of Plumtree, now [BEA] is more than just J2EE. Now we are truly multiplatform."

Gartner research director for enterprise architecture, Greta James, said the acquisition came as no surprise.

"Consolidation in the portal market makes a lot of sense, and we've always regarded BEA as a bit of an acquisition target itself, so this will certainly make it a lot more attractive," James said.

"This acquisition will complement its WebLogic portal, giving it a product to address .Net users, but on the negative side it could cause confusion because BEA said that its portal could do everything and is now trying to rewrite history by admitting it's more of a transactional portal."

According to James, Plumtree hasn't had a huge impact on the portal market in the Asia Pacific, securing only 2.8 percent of market share in Australia, compared to BEA's 6 percent, and IBM's 27.4 percent in 2004.

However, Plumtree has 700 customers worldwide and BEA is promising all Plumtree products will continue to be sold and fully supported.

"It should be positive for Plumtree customers because BEA has said that it is leaving Plumtree products untouched for the moment," James said.

Move should ring alarm bells for users

Independent analyst John Brand, formerly with Meta Group, believes BEA's intention to buy Plumtree should be ringing alarm bells for users of both products.

"BEA has been losing ground in the portal market because of its developer focus, yet Plumtree has also been losing market share because of its user-centric model," Brand said.

"Organizations affected will have only a couple of years at most to decide what they believe a portal actually is and which vendors are best suited to providing it.

"At this stage few organizations will find the combination of BEA and Plumtree palatable long term."

Customers contacted by Computerworld said they had not been contacted by either vendor about the impending acquisition.

An IT support manager for a government department, who requested anonymity, said his organization has implemented a Plumtree portal.

"In hindsight we probably should have gone with someone different; Plumtree is expensive and hardware intensive, it's like a Rolls Royce solution when we only have a VW budget," the IT manager said.

"I'm part of IT support, I have to run the thing, and I think we should have gone with something like Microsoft SharePoint because it's easy to find someone that knows Microsoft."

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