Altova sent a blurb about its new UModel 2005 software. Having used XMLSpy in some of its many guises we were intrigued and a bit quizzical. Quizzical because it is very late to get in the UML game – the technology is 10 years old and well represented by:

Argouml is Opensource, free and definitely quite capable
Borland with its Together and other lines ofUML fortified products
IBM/Rational withs its SoftwareArchitect and Rose products
Microsoft with its Visio and maybe late this year Visual 2005
Oracle with a remarkably adept UML tool in its JDeveloper product
UMLet is one of a half-dozen Open Source UML drawing tools
Visual Paradigm with its very promiscuous UML tool that fits everywhere
and at least 3 dozen more vendors. Now at least three of the tools are absolutely free(click on the links above);so the question was what was distinctive about Altovas UML tool ?

A survey of the Altova site showed UModel 2005 with very polished modeling, diagramming and graphic control capabilities but aUML feature matrix that would be competitive circa 1996 perhaps 1997; but certainly not in todays development environ. For example, UModel 2005 is missing support for the important State and Activity diagrams available in Argouml and most other tools. And the code generation/reverse engineering while competent, was just par for the course and certainly not challenging some of the Together, Rational or Oracle capabilities.

So why do a me-too in a relatively mature market? Obviously it has to do with Futures. First, Altova must have broader plans beyond what is in the 2005 tool. Some of the other XML mapping products and generation capabilities give a hint at possible directions (but we dont know anything more than you, dear reader). Second, Altova must see a bigger future for MDA-Model Driven Application development than some of the major pundits in the industry. And here they may be onto something because Microsoft with its Software Factories and IBM with its Design Models and Borlands Together with its sophisticated templates plus many others – all, not just Altova, must see opportunity.

Clearly generation technology is all over the place with ASP, JSP, and PHP among others thriving on it in the Web world; embedded processing using it extensively with tools from Softera and others; and the app development field using it all over IDEs with reverse engineering, wizards and starting code templates. Despite all this, we hope the people at Altova understand when we say we are from Missouri on Altova UModel 2005.

(c)JBSurveyer 2005