Startup Coghead is opening up the beta version of its hosted Web development environment to technically savvy users in small to midsize businesses (SMBs) that are keen to create their own applications.
Available in a closed beta to a limited number of users since May, Coghead will unveil the open beta of its platform Wednesday at the Office 2.0 conference in San Francisco.
In SMBs or workgroups in larger organizations, users who feel at home with technology are often frustrated that they have to rely on packaged software or custom-built alternatives when doing their jobs, according to Paul McNamara, Coghead’s chief executive officer. “There’s a large gap between the people who create the app and those who use it,” he said. “We let people who are close to a business problem create their own apps.”
The company’s executives came up with the name “coghead” to denote users who are passionate about technology and to signal that any apps developed on the Coghead platform can interoperate, subject to user permission, like cogs in a machine, McNamara said.
Coghead is targeting corporate users who are comfortable creating Excel macros and understand business processes, he added. Coghead estimates there could be as many as 20 million such people employed in IT or operations units within SMBs or enterprises.
Users can sign into the Coghead website and create their own application or customize prebuilt offerings by dragging and dropping components. Users have the capability to create business logic, embedding business rules and workflows into their applications. The kind of applications early beta testers have already created include CRM, asset tracking and project management, McNamara said.
He expects that the applications users create will evolve over time as others in a company use them and request specific additional features. This more dynamic form of software development contrasts with the traditional, rigid approach to building customized software where users submit requirements in advance of the design.
When a user creates an application in Coghead, the company automatically generates a Web service interface for that application, McNamara said. Coghead can also integrate external Web services into the Coghead platform. The company will provide connectors to other hosted software such as Salesforce.com’s CRM offerings, he added.
Coghead will provide a “gallery” of general-use applications such as CRM and project management that users can choose to deploy or modify, McNamara said. Third parties can also contribute applications to the gallery.
Coghead, formerly known as Versai, was founded in 2003. The startup spent its first two years perfecting the back-end architecture for its Web platform. The company has its headquarters in Redwood Shores, Calif., and has 26 staff, split between the United States and Chengdu in China. Its software is hosted by global IT infrastructure provider OpSource.
The Coghead development platform will be production-ready early next year when the startup will also announce pricing, McNamara said. Coghead intends to charge users on a monthly subscription basis.
-China Martens, IDG News Service (Boston Bureau)
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