Milia 97 was a large collection of very scared individuals and corporations. The difference between viewers and exhibitors was completely clear, if a little painful.

In the red corner we had a large number of CD-ROM production companies acting as exhibitors to any and all who want yet another free demo CD and in the blue corner we have content owners and broadcasters who are looking to the internet as the future of interactive media.

Nobody seems to want to make CD-ROMs anymore so itís understandable that all the companies with a strong stake in that area of new media are floundering out of their depth - a solid example is the company Macromedia.

Macromedia is a software company whose flagship product is Director - this product is used in the production of over 90% of commercial CD-ROMs. The company reported losses of $3mil. in the last quarter. Undeterred by these figures Macromedia showed sneak previews of Director 6 at Milia 97 which follows in the tradition of Office 97 being totally web centric and treating the internet as one giant hard drive.

These are all good things.

But whether or not Director is a good product is not really a point of issue here. The point to question is the validity of a high price point for authoring software. With CD-ROMs at least the developer knew (or assumed) that there would be some sales of the CD itself - so though it may not necessarily be a hit it will still return some of its investment. The web doesnít lend itself to doing that. If I use Director to make a shockwave applet to go into a web page I cannot charge directly for it - so why would I then be tempted to pay for the tool.

Consider the following two packages - which illustrate sets of software tools that might be used in the production of a simple web site.

Package 1

(a)Homesite $40.00 free trial (infinite) www.dexnet.com

(b)Paint Shop Pro $69.00 free trial (infinite) www.jasc.com

(c)Future Splash Animator $250.00 free trial (time based) www.futurewave.com

(d)(Apache free) www.apache.org

Total $359.00 (although could be zero)

Package 2

(a)Adobe Pagemill $100.00 www.adobe.com

(b)Photoshop 4 $550.00 www.adobe.com

(c)Director 5 $850.00 www.macromedia.com

(d)(Netscape Enterprise server $1000.00) www.netscape.com

Total $2500.00

(a) Homesite and Adobe Pagemill are both site design tools - their feature set is very similar and their use is a matter of preference - though Homesite can be used for free for as long as you want.

(b) Paint Shop Pro and Photoshop are used for image manipulation - although Photoshop is more robust and larger Paint Shop Pro is written to support Photoshop plugins. In laymanís terms this means that almost any 3rd party piece of software written to work with photoshop will work with paint shop pro.

(c) Future Splash animator is used to produce small easily downloadable and cute interactive animations for web pages.

Director can be used to produce small easily downloadable and cute interactive animations for web pages.

Whatís the big deal ?

The list price of package 1 is $ 0.00 or $ 359.00. The software is all freely available online - with full tech support and a large developer base that is easily contactable through newsgroups.

The list price of package 2 is $2500.00. The software is freely available in stores around the country - with full tech support an expensive fax or phone call away and a large developer base that is easily contactable through mail and via magazines.

So of course the question becomes - why buy photoshop? why buy director?

Surely not because I like it ???

This is a money making issue - software is an investment - if it does not return a profit I will use one that will - yes the work may suffer slightly (in the sense that a full cd installable application such as Adobe Photoshop will have more features than a downloadable version of paint shop pro) but that is a cost benefit analysis that can be done on a per project basis.

 

The onus then comes onto the software companies to figure out a way of giving their products free and still retain some profit margin because otherwise their user base will slowly but surely be replaced by a bunch of people using free-lite-versions of software and not paying anyone for anything. Perhaps this could be by some form of usage fee - for example:

1. Macromedia gives me Director for free

2. I make lots of shockwave stuff that other people look at.

3. Every time people look at the shockwave stuff their dollar spent breaks down into

25 cents Macromedia

25 cents Me (or rather - the developer)

50 cents Subscription to their online service

The established companies - Adobe Macromedia and a few others - have a user base now and they are losing people every day - letís hope they figure out how to implement the charging by usage soon - cause it will have lots of interesting side effects.