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O'Reilly to Halt Software Development

In a time where rumors about consolidations and layoffs abound as much as the company skippers who dodge artfully around them, information technology firm O'Reilly & Associates Inc. said this week that it would cease developing software and would have to lay off 9 people in that division.

Founder and Chief Executive Officer Tim O'Reilly said in a letter published in the news section of the software division's site that his firm would not create any new software products beyond its Web server WebSite version 3 and community production application WebBoard version 4. Ultimately, O'Reilly said he is trying to sell off the software products, but will continue to serve customers and support the products until he can find a new home for them.

"Although the software business was a profitable one for O'Reilly, we've realized that it's not a strong strategic fit with our other efforts," O'Reilly said in the letter. "It's time for us to focus on our core mission of providing information on emergent technologies through conferences, online resources, and books."

While most of the staff have been moved to other sectors of the company, primarily the conferences unit, 9 people were laid off because the outfit could not find "appropriate positions" for them.

"We value our foray into the software business," O'Reilly added. "It gave us a great opportunity to help advance the then-new field of Web development, and it was an important first step beyond our successful book business. As we've grown, we've realized that it was a worthy experiment, but that we aren't the company to grow the business."

O'Reilly spokesperson Cammie Noah told InternetNews.com Thursday that the unit's 23 employees received notice about the software development halt Feb. 8 and that those who could be placed were shifted to other parts of the company. Those who couldn't be placed within the company were given severance packages and could remain with the company until April.

Noah said O'Reilly would concentrate on its strengths -- setting up conferences and publishing books.

Selling off its products isn't really new to O'Reilly & Associates, a long-time purveyor of the open source development movement. The company created its Global Network Navigator (GNN) in the early '90s. GNN was a kind of portal where users could read reviews, articles, and news bulletins about Internet services and actually get them on the spot. GNN culled success and attention; America Online Inc. snapped it up in 1995.

Though GNN was a success, O'Reilly thought it could go one better to help people get on the Web. The company teamed with software maker Spry, and the two crafted the first integrated Internet-access product, Internet in a Box, which included Spry software, GNN, and a version of its book, "The Whole Internet User's Guide and Catalog."

O'Reilly plugged away, building products such as its WebSite Professional server and creating a Perl Resource Kit for the open source scripting language.

And that is where O'Reilly stands now, entrenched in open source development. On Feb. 27, the company launched ONJava.com, an independent web site focused on enterprise Java development. The new site provides development tools, resources, and articles for enterprise Java developers ONJava.com emphasizes cross-platform development and peer-to-peer networking between servers, PCs and wireless devices.