Little-known Jasc Software Inc. of Minneapolis, Minn., is trying to carve out a new market segment for itself against brand name competitors such as Adobe Systems and Microsoft Corp.

In the past, Jasc’s Paint Shop Pro was positioned as product for entry level and for professionals.

“”We

were exclusively focused on digital camera and digital imaging from soccer moms right up to the graphics professional,”” said Karen Drost, a spokesperson for Jasc Software.

But a two-year study of digital camera users found a new breed of customer cropping up; one that wasn’t on either extreme, but in the middle. These people were interested in photography and wanted to do more projects such as postcards for family reunions, scrapbooks and business cards.

“”These are people with vision, but were staring at blank screens because they did not know how to use high-end photo editors. We wanted to make it fun and easier,”” Drost said.

With the advent of the digital camera, Drost said customers were having difficulty with some of the easier tasks such as importing photos from the digital camera onto the computer.

“”Some people did not know how to get their photos out of the camera or even crop them or get someone out of a photo,”” she said.

With the latest release of Paint Shop Pro (Version 9) and Paint Shop Pro Studio, Jasc has created a whole new look and feel that is project based rather than feature based, she said.

The company has included an idea book that enables people to use and understand common photo projects such as enhance photos, restore photos, create, crafts and organize and share.

Inside Paint Shop 9 are guides with a hot link feature that can either instruct users on various tasks or automatically perform it for them. “”You really can’t get stuck because it performs the task for you,”” said Allison Pankratz, Jasc’s product marketing manager.

The products range in price from as low as $29 up to $129 for the deluxe version.

Jasc Paint Shop supports 10 digital camera brands and enables users to browse photos and retrieve image data from the history of the camera. It also has well over 100 sort options.

The software integrates white balance and exposure settings of the camera as well. Some of the new features include:

  • noise removal filters, which improves fuzzy photos taken from low mega-pixel cameras;
  • chromatic aberration removal filter, which helps to eliminate the colour glow that often appears in high contrast areas of digital images;
  • fill flash filter for dark shadows across faces with dark backgrounds. This filter brightens the face, while leaving the background in tacked; and
  • one step photo fix tool that brightens, sharpens, and colour corrects the image.

The company has also established an archiving and retrieval program called Photo Safe. “”No one has a back up plan for their photos. We still get people calling us to ask ‘where do the get their negatives?’ and they are not aware of viruses and crashes,”” Drost said.

Photo Safe reminds users to back up every 100 days or 100MBs by warning light and instructs users on how to use back up CDs. The software is intuitive enough to create thumbnails and has a find option.

Jasc uses Ingram Micro as its distributor in Canada and one of its prominent resellers is Softchoice, Pankratz said.

Besides consumer and retail markets, the company is also focused on government, education and unique business markets such as the technical document market. According to Drost, Jasc has more than 70 per cent of the technical document market because its software is able to do illustrations for textbooks.

Currently, Jasc products compete with Adobe’s line and Microsoft’s Picture It. “”They are giants,”” Drost said of the competition. “”We are a top three player and we are the only one focused on digital camera and imaging, while the others are into many things.””

Jasc has 120 employees and part of its staff includes a colour scientist, which she says there are only a handful in the world. The colour scientist, for example, works on innovative photo methods such as the chromatic filter, Drost added.

The company also has no charge around the clock technical support. They use the feedback from this for market intelligence, she said.

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