Macromedia Takes on the Enterprise

It's enterprise everything these days. With the exception of gadgets, start big and get bigger seems to be the American way. But Macromedia took a different approach with its products from the start. It focused first on the single user with a need to create an attractive site. Then, with its Contribute product, Macromedia stepped up its offerings to teams and small businesses that wanted to more easily create and update site content. A few weeks ago, the company officially tossed its hat into the enterprise ring with the introduction of its Macromedia Web Publishing System. As much a strategy as a solution, the System combines new versions of Contribute and FlashPaper with Studio MX 2004, and adds Macromedia Contribute Publishing Services to unify and empower the suite to scale up to meet the needs of organization-wide deployments.

With its success in the SOHO market (the company boasts 200,000 unit sales of Contribute in its first 18 months on the market), why go up against the might of CMS players? According to Erik Larson, director of product management and marketing, the Web Publishing System "fills in the gaps from each of the existing solutions." He points out that site creation tools, like FrontPage, are difficult and don't include administrative controls. And CMS—even products labeled WCM—are generally very expensive to deploy and, as Larson says, "focus on the content repository, as opposed to focusing on the person who wants to publish content on the site, while still allowing the organization to maintain administrative controls."

Larson says the Web Publishing System is, in fact, "the culmination of our plan with Contribute from the start." The impetus behind the introduction of Contribute, according to Larson, was to meet the needs of Studio MX customers that wanted to enable a broader group of individuals to be involved in publishing content to the Web. For small shops, this level of participation is welcome, as it is in many larger organizations, because it frees up IT and Web development professionals and content creators alike to focus on what they each do best. The difference with larger organizations, however, is one of control; administration of a site's look and content can take on formidable proportions and importance. Lawson Hancock, senior product manger for Contribute, says, "In previous releases, everyone had a publish button, but we heard from our corporate customers that they needed an additional level of control."

Thus, administrative features are a key component of the new system. Contribute Publishing Services (available modularly) is a server-based J2EE application that allows Web and IT managers to centrally administer and track usage across large numbers of sites and publishers. Contribute Publishing Services provides integration with Active Directory and LDAP user directories, and central management of site connections and access permissions. Server-based logging and email-notification applications provide a deeper view into publishing activities, as well as a basic deployment system for moving published content from staging to production.

Contribute 3 has been upgraded to provide content reviews and approvals; enable enhanced editing capabilities, including built-in image editing; and now offer customizability and extensibility. With version 2, FlashPaper is now available for Mac OS X, supports text searching and links, and, for Windows users, includes bookmarks, Office plug-ins, and PDF conversion.

With this latest release, Macromedia remains focused on providing affordable pricing along with ease of use and compatibility. "We're flipping it around from the CMS model," says Larson. "It doesn't have to be so hard, and we want to offer affordable pricing without this massive IT change management hurdle."

Pricing for the Macromedia Web Publishing System starts at $2,499 for a 10 pack, $12,495 for 50, and $24,900 for 100. One developer seat is included for every ten business user seats. A free preview release is available now and general release is scheduled for August. "The way we're going to stay in business," according to Larson, "is what we've seen already: Once a portion of the organization is using Macromedia, it spreads because it is so easy to deploy and use."