When Marco Boerries sold his first company, the office application vendor Star Division, to systems giant Sun Microsystems in August 1999, it surprised many analysts. After all, Microsoft had effectively sewed up the market years earlier with its Microsoft Office product.
But the incentive was not just financial: with Sun's help, Boerries hoped to build StarPortal, a web-based version of the StarOffice suite that could be delivered from a central server.
That ill-fated project never took off. But the central idea – web-based interactions between a client and a server – proved the inspiration to persuade Boerries to leave Sun and set-up Verdisoft, a developer of web-based device management software.
The company's notion is that users' lives will be made significantly simpler if information about their devices is stored on a central server, sparing them the nightmare of upgrading operating systems, configuring modems and firewalls on home networks, or transferring their preferences from one machine to another.
Verdisoft's flagship product is its CrossPoint Server. This records each device's hardware and software profiles, as well as the user's preferences. CrossPoint is comprised of three core components.
The software management component controls the installation of complex software, such as device drivers and operating system files. The data delivery and management component can deliver personalised content and data, an element that will be critical in persuading potential customers such as mobile network operators to buy the software.
Finally, the preference/configuration management component maintains user settings for all the devices under management. For example, mobile phone users can have all their settings – including address books – stored centrally, so their settings will remain the same when they switch phones.
The arcane complexities of setting up, running and managing various computing devices can baffle and infuriate users. But the case for Verdisoft's technology remains far from clear, as does the return on investment for companies planning to deploy it. Boerries will hope that CrossPoint does not suffer a similar fate to StarOffice.