July 20, 2006 6:02 PM PDT

Zend to show PHP tools in October

Zend, a start-up that commercializes the open-source PHP Web site software, plans to release the first version of a higher-level PHP software package at an October conference, company co-founders said Wednesday.

Zend announced the open-source Zend Framework at the company's 2005 PHP conference and plans to release version 1.0 or a preview version of it at the next show on Oct. 29 in San Jose, Calif.

"The conference is the target for announcing 1.0--hopefully at least a release candidate," Andi Gutmans, co-founder and vice president of technology, said in an interview Wednesday.

The Zend Framework provides a standard way to write applications that run on Web servers and includes PHP software modules for tasks such as database access or Web services communications. It dovetails with the Eclipse programming tools.

But it's not the only PHP tool option. IBM in June announced its PHP Integration Kit that works in conjunction with the WebSphere Application Server Community Edition, software IBM acquired when it bought start-up Gluecode.

PHP, which originally stood for Personal Home Page, is used so Web servers can create customized Web pages on the fly. It's relied on by Yahoo, Yahoo's Flickr photo site, the Chinese search engine Baidu and many other Web sites. Though Zend is the prime company behind PHP and the Zend Framework, others outside the company contribute to the open-source projects.

One partner is Yahoo, which is helping Zend with version 6 of PHP, Gutmans said. The main difference between PHP 6 and PHP 5 is internationalization improvements such as Unicode support so PHP works with many more languages.

IBM in June announced a partnership with Zend in which Big Blue will supply customers of its System i servers--formerly known as iSeries and AS/400--with PHP. "This is by far the biggest deal" Zend has signed, Gutmans said of the three-year, multimillion-dollar partnership.

Zend, with 118 employees so far, is concentrating on expansion and revenue growth for now and will turn to profitability later. The company opened a new office in Munich in 2005 and one in France this year, said Zeev Suraski, the other co-founder and Zend's chief technology officer.

The company is aiming for profitability during the end of 2007 or early 2008, Suraski said.

An acquisition of Zend isn't the executives' hope, but Gutmans wouldn't rule it out: "The goal of the company is to have an IPO (initial public offering), but you never know what's going to happen."

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