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Plumtree Opens Online Gadget Workshop and Showroom

How many separate applications do you launch on your computer to get your work done? Two? Six? Twenty-five? In general, the more you have open - the longer it takes to do the job.

So, some companies build corporate portals. If you haven't seen or used one, think of it as sort of mix and match of Web-based applications that tap into other Web sites to give you a little bit of what you want.

Plumtree Software, which specializes in corporate portal software, Wednesday re-launched its developer network to feature an online place for developers to create modular portal services known as "Gadgets." Redwood Shores-based software giant Oracle (Nasdaq: ORCL) has a similar plug-in component it calls a "Portlet."

"Internally we're calling this the 'Gadget/Portlet Wars', " jokes Plumtree spokesperson Laura Nusbaum.

But, San Francisco-based Plumtree says it is taking the challenge of making corporate portals by some of the larger companies very seriously. Plumtree boasts 175 corporate customers including well-known companies like Ford Motor Company, Proctor & Gamble and oil company BP. Examples of their sites and others can be seen at Plumtree's Gadget Showroom. The new Gadget Workshop is a free subscription portal that developers can use to write and test gadgets without installing any software.

"The more plug-in pieces you have available, the more appealing your software is," says Nusbaum.

In general, things like gadgets or portlets use HTML to display information, but the interfaces can be modified using other technologies such as Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), eXtensible Style Language (XSL), JavaScript, or even Java applets.

"The nice thing about using us is that we are not held down by any specific type of company's software or platform," says Nusbaum. "For example, I doubt if you could use an Oracle portlet for a rival company's site."

The programs are relatively easy to code but each company has special demands so Plumtree is offering a series of free monthly online seminars for educating developers on how to write its gadgets. The company is also building a gadget certification program.

"This is our first step in developing a solid development program," says Nusbaum.