RealTime IT News

Macromedia Bundles Up

Macromedia debuted a new bundle of software programs Monday it hopes will compete with rival content management systems (CMS).

The Web graphics software maker said its new Web Publishing System is a combination of shrink-wrapped software that customers are already putting together. The suite consists of Studio MX 2004, Contribute 3, FlashPaper 2, and new Contribute Publishing Services.

Macromedia said it will market the package to its three main constituencies of the Web publishing process: business users, Web professionals, and IT managers.

Tom Hale, Macromedia senior vice president and general manager, told internetnews.com that Web Publishing System is Macromedia's first formalized offering of this particular bundle of software, and it's something customers had been doing on their own.

"We've been around on the edge with this for some time now with our Dreamweaver on the Contribute products," Hale said. "We used to be known as the company that sold shrink-wrap. Now we are moving towards scaling in the enterprise and serving larger workgroups. This is right in line with the direction that Macromedia has been going in for the last few years. We did it with our Breeze and Flex applications."

At the base of the new Web Publishing System is Macromedia's latest version of Contribute. It also adds WebDAV support and incorporates the engine for Cascading Style Sheet (CSS) rendering from the market-leading Dreamweaver MX 2004. Version 3 of Macromedia's Contribute also has a new external editing feature that allows for a technical review and editing of Web page source code in an external HTML editor (such as Dreamweaver) before publishing.

Lawson Hancock, Contribute senior product manager, said the company is already working on the next release of Contribute (due out next year), which is expected to take advantage of the latest rendering engines. Contribute 3 also includes better support for editing a wider range of Web sites, improved image editing capabilities and better integration with Microsoft Office.

Macromedia is undercutting the need for competing software from chief rival Adobe Systems by adding features in FlashPaper 2 that allow Web content managers to create PDFs that can be e-mailed directly from within Office.

"Macromedia and Adobe had mostly gotten out of each other's gun sights, but Flash Paper puts them right back at odds," Forrester Research analyst Harley Manning told internetnews.com. "By adding plug-ins for Office and the option to convert to PDF, Macromedia is clearly trying to position FlashPaper as an alternative for people who want a tightly formatted online document that launches about 20 time faster than PDF. Given the ubiquitous market presence of Flash, Adobe has to take this threat seriously."

The new version of FlashPaper also generates Flash-based documents that support text search and selection, hyperlinks and bookmarks. Macromedia said the enhanced version should be able to work with any existing Web site, Flash project, Breeze presentation or Breeze Live meeting.

Both Contribute 3 and Flash Paper 2 are available as standalone products and as upgrades. Localized versions in six foreign languages are due out later this year for Web Publishing System, Contribute and Flash Paper.

The platform helps administrators centrally manage access to Web sites, integrate with enterprise systems via LDAP and Active Directory user directories and track publishing activities across large numbers of Web sites and publishers. For example, Hale said a Web manager could easily maintain 40 to 50 content contributors and between 40 to 50 intranets with controls in place that maintain the integrity of corporate information.

In terms of competition, Macromedia said its new content management system is more advanced than offerings from EMC's Documentum, as well as those from Idetix, Conviveon, Stellent and Corus. The company said this is because traditional CMS products focus on the technical and back-end functions of Web sites and intranets with little regard for content contributors or how much the multi-month projects cost.

Hale said Macromedia's Web Publishing System works with Windows, Linux, and Unix servers and can be deployed to standard J2EE application environments. And because it is compatible with other Macromedia platforms, Hale said the two million Web professionals who currently use Dreamweaver could now use the Web Publishing System to collaborate with the non-technical business staff.

CMS systems are coming back into vogue. Recent statistics from META Group predict 2007 will be a banner year for the Web content management sector. The research firm is predicting a growth of up to $2.5 billion in those three years with a large part of software licensing costs to include CMS in more enterprise applications.

"Flexibility and ease of use are keys to success for today's content creation and management systems," said Andrew Warzecha, senior vice president and director of META Group. "Solutions that extend existing infrastructure, embrace open standards, simplify workflows and reduce the hoops that users have to jump through to share information at low price points are beginning to break a lot of market perceptions about this space."

Still for all of its sound and fury, Macromedia said its Web Publishing System does not include an organic digital rights management function, though it would work fine with existing software models. Hale also said that Macromedia is not yet ready to take its new platform bundle into the realm of hosted application (such as Salesforce.com).

English versions of the platform for Windows and Mac OS X are expected to ship worldwide in August. Pricing will be based on the number of users. Seats are chopped up in increments of 10, 50 and 100 users at prices starting at $2,499. The business packs include one full developer seat with Studio MX 2004 for every ten business user seats.