Peerless Systems Inc., a provider of core processing software to community banks, has upgraded its product line with a graphical user interface.
The software, called Peerless21, runs on International Business Machines Corp.'s AS/400 midrange computer. It uses the icon-based commands of the Microsoft Windows operating environment rather than character-based commands.
The company's customers, including approximately 250 community banks, are expected to use the new product within a few months, according to Peerless officials.
Peerless is the first AS/400 core processing supplier to come out with a Windows graphical user interface for the entire core processing environment, observers said.
The move demonstrates that the company is "alert and listens to its customers," said M. Arthur Gillis, a technology consultant with Computer Based Solutions Inc., New Orleans.
Not surprisingly, Peerless' top competitors have GUI-based systems in the works.
Kirchman Corp., Altamonte Springs, Fla., already has graphical interface capabilities for the management reporting portion of its Dimension core processing software. Dimension is designed for banks with up to $12 billion in assets.
Kirchman officials declined to say whether the rest of its software would be upgraded.
Jack Henry & Associates Inc., Monett, Mo., is upgrading its CIF2020 and Silverlake community bank software products with graphical interfaces.
The CIF2020 software, for banks of up to $200 million in assets, will be rolled out by June. Silverlake, for larger institutions, is expected to be upgraded by 1997.
Brookfield, Wis.-based Fiserv Inc. has announced plans to upgrade its AS/400 core processing software, known as the Comprehensive Banking System, for banks of up to $10 billion in assets.
According to Fiserv officials, a GUI-based version already has been released for the international market, and U.S. banks can expect it to be available next month.
Alltel Information Services Inc., Little Rock, is releasing a GUI- enhanced version of its Horizon banking software, for banks of up to $3 billion in assets, by June.
Like its rivals, Peerless developed the graphical interface to satisfy client demand for the familiar "point-and-click" environment, said Paige Chadwick, vice president of marketing at the Richardson, Tex.-based company.
The GUI presents a graphical view of the data, instead of character- based architecture, which can be more cumbersome for navigating and running applications.
With the graphical interface the software can be used with Windows-based personal computers, making it easier to use and easier to train employees, Ms. Chadwick said.
Another advantage is the ability to run the old and new technologies side by side, so that bank employees can determine which they want to use, she added.
The development of a graphical interface is part of Peerless' move toward supporting client/server technology.
The AS/400, normally used as a host that houses all core processing applications, "is ideal for use as a server in bank environments, because it's very secure," said Ms. Chadwick.
A client/server configuration would enable Peerless' banking clients to download part of the AS/400's core processing work load to PCs, she said.
While the GUI currently provides an interface to Peerless' core processing software, the company is rewriting its applications so they will run on PCs. The first client/server application, for general ledger, will be released in July.
The company is programming the new applications using an IBM development tool based on object-oriented technology, which significantly speeds software development, said Ms. Chadwick.
The new applications will also support Windows 95, she said.
Recognizing the importance of client/server technology to the market, Peerless has pumped $1.5 million into the development of Peerless21. The company said it plans to invest the same amount this year.
Ms. Tucker is a freelance writer based in Hazlet, N.J.