Israel-based software testing specialist Mercury Interactive is to launch a product to tune applications about to be deployed, the company said on Tuesday. Mercury already offers products and services for testing applications during development, and when they are in use, but the new product, which is already available as an online service, fills the gap in between when the application is moved onto the live system. "European businesses mis-spent $140bn on using IT in 2001, according to Gartner Group," said Moshe Egert, European president of Mercury. While much of this is in misguided projects such as those begun during the e-business hype, a large part is due to hardware and network resources which are over-specified, in order to support badly tuned applications. Mercury made its name testing applications that are under development, but has since moved into monitoring the performance of live applications. Between these two markets, it sees an opportunity for the "tuning", or optimising of applications for the specific hardware they will be deployed on. "In 98 percent of cases, performance was doubled by software optimisation," said Egert, "and we made an average of 400 percent performance improvement." The online tuning service is being sold as a way to reduce hardware bills. In 3,000 cases, Mercury found that 70 percent of the users it dealt with had overestimated their hardware by 50 percent, said Egert, and he believes that this reflects the average situation. Mercury offers users their money back if they do not double the performance of their applications. As a product, the tuning software will be of use to firms that deploy a significant number of applications in a year. "Mercury has few competitors," said Andy Kyte, a research director at Gartner Group specialising in e-business. "Very few players are willing to engage in testing software and services. It is a complex area with not many practitioners." Kyte agreed with Mercury's assessment of the importance of testing. "Testing is a core competency of IT organisations," he said. "I'd employ a great tester over a great programmer any day."