Macromedia unveils Web Publishing System

Macromedia Inc. has put together a software suite for designing, building, managing and editing Web sites that is aimed at users that want a Web content management and publishing system that is simpler to use and less expensive than existing options, the company is announcing Monday.

The suite, called Macromedia Web Publishing System, includes tools for non-technical business users, for Web developers and designers and for IT staffers. Pricing is based on the number of business users that will get access to the suite. A pack with seats for one developer and 10 business users goes for US$2,499, while a pack for 10 developers and 100 business users costs US$24,990. Volume discounts and special pricing for government and education customers are available.

For business users, the suite comes with Contribute 3, designed to make it simple for non-technical users to publish Web content. Meanwhile, for Web developers and designers, the suite has Macromedia Studio MX 2004, which includes the Dreamweaver, Flash, Fireworks and FreeHand Web development products. Finally, Web Publishing System features Contribute Publishing Services, a server-based tracking and administration tool for IT staffers to do things like establish what Web documents different users can modify and what they’re allowed to do. The Contribute 3 component includes FlashPaper 2 for converting documents to Flash or PDF formats that make the documents viewable online.

The Macromedia suite has been priced aggressively and designed to be easy to use in order to offer an alternative to content management and publishing systems that tend to be much more expensive and complicated, said Erik Larson, director of product management at San Francisco-based Macromedia.

The Web Publishing System will appeal to organizations such as schools and universities, small government agencies, non-profit groups and small- and medium-sized businesses that need this functionality but lack the money and technical resources to adopt the more sophisticated options in the market from players such as Vignette Corp. and Interwoven Inc., said Eric Peterson, a Jupiter Research analyst.

“This offering is significant because Macromedia, which has long been known for providing very high-quality software to small- to medium-size businesses with applications like Flash and Dreamweaver, is really stepping up into the content management (and publishing) space,” he said. “They’re making a fairly robust content management (and publishing) system available to any small organization…looking for a system that won’t break the bank.”

Normally, organizations are expected to shell out a minimum of between US$6,000 and US$10,000 for a Web content management/publishing software suite, but Macromedia is lowering that bar, letting customers spend less on a system that nonetheless can scale up if need be, Peterson said. “It will grow with you. You don’t have to make a US$10,000, US$50,000 or US$100,000 investment to get going,” he said.

This Macromedia suite, however, probably will not be appropriate for companies that are looking for a high-end content management/publishing system, Peterson said. “If a company were floating an RFP (request for proposal) and they felt that a Vignette or an Interwoven were appropriate vendors, Macromedia would not be appropriate (for that project),” he said. “This is really an entry-level content management and publishing system that is absolutely needed by parts of the market that are traditionally ignored.”

The Web Publishing System is available in a preview version at Macromedia’s Web site. It is expected to ship for Windows and Mac OS X in English worldwide in August.

Components of the Web Publishing System available as standalone products include Macromedia Studio MX 2004, which began shipping in September 2003 and costs US$899 for new users and US$399 for upgrades, and Contribute 3 and FlashPaper 2, which are new versions of existing products being announced Monday. Contribute 3 will cost US$79 as an upgrade and US$149 for new users and will be available in English-language versions worldwide for Windows and Mac OS X in August. It includes FlashPaper 2, which can also be bought on its own for US$79 starting in August for Windows in English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean and Spanish.

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