Macromedia Debuts New Robo- Line

Macromedia is rolling out a line of e-learning products, part of a legacy of its $65 million acquisition of eHelp.

The new platforms are used to help build e-learning
applications, online help desks, software simulations and/or tutorial
sessions.

The San Francisco-based Web graphics software maker said its
Macromedia
RoboHelp X5 (USD$899), Macromedia RoboInfo 5.0 (USD$799) and RoboInfo
Pro
5.0 (USD$1799) are now shipping with upgrades available to purchase
from
previous versions. But although the name on the box says Macromedia, the
majority of
the software comes from eHelp.

“Their project had been in the works for more than a year,”
Macromedia
Director of Product Management Miriam Geller told
internetnews.com.
“The acquisition deal closed about a month ago and now we are shipping
it.
From an engineering standpoint, that’s pretty amazing.”

Geller said Macromedia’s engineering teams are working on a
next-generation product now, which is expected to be more of a balance
between eHelp and Macromedia’s platforms. Not that there is much
disparity
already, according to Geller. Much of eHelp’s software is designed to
work
with Macromedia’s core suite of products such as Flash, Dreamweaver and
the
recently released Macromedia Breeze product, an online meeting platform
designed to go head-to-head with LiveMeeting from Microsoft and various services from online meeting pioneer WebEx
.

“The reason for the merger in the first place is that there are a
lot of
synergies between the two companies,” Geller said. “Going forward, we
will
look at the product and ask, ‘how do we make it work better than it
does
today?'”

Synergies seem to be the theme for the new Robo-series products.
RoboHelp
X5, for example includes new support for Macromedia’s FlashHelp as well
as
XML, PDF import/export, content management, distributed workforces,
team
authoring capabilities, and the newly released JavaHelp 2.0 from Sun
Microsystems .

Built on the same code base as RoboHelp, Macromedia’s RoboInfo is
used to
publish and manage company documents online. Version 5.0 features
capabilities like workflow audit trails, version control with document
rollback, and administrator permissions. Geller said the pro-version
adds in
a server-based help desk platform with the ability to offer real-time
help.
The Pro-version also offers detailed usage feedback reports, a
natural-language search as well as full-text searches for non-English
languages. Both versions are being marketed to the government,
healthcare,
and financial sectors.

“For example, NASA is a big customer that uses our RoboHelp to help
them
get around some of their SAP issues,” Geller said.

The company also boasts contracts with the likes of American
Healthtech,
The Employment Law Advisory Network, Evergreen Online Learning, Help
Solutions, Mitek Industries, and Sygate Technologies.

Macromedia is also looking to use eHelp’s products to cash in on the
corporate e-learning market, which generated nearly $2.3 billion in
2000.
The sector is currently experiencing a growth rate of more than 50
percent,
which will allow it to exceed $18 billion in 2005, according to
Framingham,
Mass.-based analyst firm IDC. The North American market alone is
expected to
grow to $11.7 billion by 2005, according to research by Kinetic
Information
and Collaborative Strategies. The sector has seen a fresh opportunity
with
the marriage of enterprise content management and hosted Web-based
learning
services. The analyst firm says the combination of content management
and
e-learning has been appealing to customers’ eagerness to gain access to
all
relevant learning materials while also addressing the all-important
bottom
line and recent concerns over travel.

With the acquisition complete and products shipping, Geller said
that the
eHelp team would now settle more into Macromedia’s culture. However,
Geller
was vague about the organization of the company, mentioning only that
things
were in flux

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