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Fred Gibbons on graphical databases.

On July 22, Software Publishing Corp. wrapped up the final details of a $25.4 million acquisition of Precision Software, the U.K. developer of Superbase 4, which SPC says now holds an 80% share of the Windows relational database market. We met recently with SPC president Fred Gibbons to explore his view of the graphical database market: Pred, it's easy to see what Windows brings to applications like word processing, page layout, and drawing. It's less obvious what Windows brings to a production database environment. Your thoughts? "If you're just dealing with text and numbers, the answer is: Nothing. But there's a new type of data that we're beginning to address--the picture. If you're storing images or pictures, a graphical database is the only way to go." Is there really much Aemand for databases that store pictures? "Remember that Precision is already a $10 million company. Last year, 70% of that revenue came from Europe, 30% from the U.S. I expect that within a year we can get that split up to 50/50, with $25 million in sales. We think Superbase could be bigger than the whole Micrografx line." Any idea who's buying all those copies of Superbase? "I was surprised by how much Superbase we're selling to VARs. They're the leading edge for us--they're using the product to add livelier, more engaging interfaces to their applications, and they're building applications that better mimic the way people work on paper." Isn't that the kind of forms-oriented, database front-end market you expected to tap with InfoAlliance? Or does Superbase represent a different strategy? InfoAlliance was a humbling experience for us. There were all these issues in the client-server world weld never thought about. Probably the client-server model is going to be awfully slow coming. But I still believe sooner or later most databases will end up on a server. So we're putting our R&D dollars into tools for interactive viewing of data and less on the database itself. We have no interest in competing with Ashton-Tate and Oracle for core technology." But you will be competing with some pretty entrenched companies that are working on Windows databases. We're not naive about the competition. But we're already on version 1.3 of Superbase. Borland has three to nine months before they'll have a shipping product, and microsoft is out of the game for at least another year. It takes a lot of customer feedback to get a product like this right. If there's one thing InfoAlliance taught us, it's that doing 80% of the job isn't good enough." Fred Gibbons, president, Software Publishing Corp., 1901 Landings Dr., Mountain View, Calif. 94043; 415-962-8910
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Title Annotation:interview with Software Publishing Corp president
Article Type:interview
Date:Aug 25, 1991
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