Shaw's Savior cometh

Shaw's Savior cometh

Ray Shaw is used to grabbing tigers by the tail.

The Brisbane businessman's repeated public revelations about unsavoury practices in the PC reseller industry have made Shaw a target for death threats and hacker attacks.

They have also earnt him a high public profile as the honest face of the reseller community in Queensland.

Between authoring a newspaper column and hosting an ABC radio program, Shaw has to juggle the demands of running his Intermedia group of PC distribution, retail and conference management companies.

Surprisingly, the rollercoaster ride Shaw has been coursing along on for the last 10 years hasn't made him gun-shy about taking on a fresh challenge.

Over the past two years, he's invested $986,000 in developing a software suite that Web-enables applications.

Called Savior, the rapid application development suite could be classed as Microsoft's Active Server Pages Web-building tool on steroids.

If it wins favour amongst software developers, the Savior could make up for the earlier software brainchild that got away from Shaw.

It was a package called Events, which he conceived in the 1980s as one of the first conference registration management systems in the world. By 1991, Events was on a roll and Version 4 racked up $2.8 million in sales within months of its launch.

Events is now among the world's top-selling packages in its class, yet Shaw's tragedy was that he was forced to sell out before the rewards started to flow.

Two of his employees, Trevor Gardiner and Chris Hayward, took over the package. Their publicly listed company Amlink Technologies has since expanded into both the US and the UK.

For Shaw, Savior is an opportunity for a phoenix-like comeback.

The head of his development team, John Rutterford, describes Savior as a platform for creating database-driven Web pages and programs.

The suite consists of a back-end database server (Savior Server), an active server component (Savior Genesis) and a database management and administration tool (Savior Administrator).

A key benefit is its ability to simplify and accelerate Active Server Pages (ASP) coding, says Rutterford.

Savior was originally created to give Intermedia a competitive advantage with its in-house systems.

Using the software to develop the group's Web and intranet-enabled business management system, it lopped about 75 per cent off the coding time required by straight ASP, Shaw estimates.

He believes Savior deserves attention from organisations with up to 400 employees intent on providing access to existing business data via their own Web servers or intranets. Licensing for the software starts around $7,000.

Pushing Savior into the market place is making demands on Shaw's time and energies, but he doesn't intend to mothball his role as industry gadfly.

In the early-to-mid-1990s, Shaw helped expose a string of reseller abuses such as over-clocking, partial substitution and sales tax avoidance.

His newspaper column, The Fixer became a lightning rod for complaints regarding shonky reseller practices. He lifted his public profile further by hosting an ABC Queensland radio program on PC issues for three years.

His views didn't make him popular with some sections of the reseller community.

"I got a number of death threats and some people would knock me off tomorrow if they could."

In addition to the threats, a hacker attack corrupted Intermedia's databases and took the business down for two weeks in 1997.

Shaw still gets 30 e-mails a week as a result of his public identity, despite the fact that neither the newspaper column or the radio program are still running.

They were dropped not out of fear but because they were draining several days a week away from Intermedia, Shaw says.

"The whole thing that has driven me in the last 20 years is ethics and honesty, and they have been sorely lacking in the computer retail industry."

In the face of continued government inaction, those concerns remain with Shaw regardless of whether Savior turns out to be a tiger or a pussycat.

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