Macromedia says the upcoming release of its Studio 8 suite of Web design applications will shake the world.

“We’ve got a number of new areas which are ground-breaking innovations and industry firsts that will allow people to do things

on the Web that weren’t possible before,” said Jim Guerard, vice-president of product management of Macromedia’s tools division.

However, he said improved workflows and interfaces will make the applications easy to use.

It’s the first release of Studio, which includes upgrades of Flash Professional, Dreamweaver and Fireworks since Macromedia was bought by Adobe in May for US$3.4 million. However, until the deal officially closes in the fall the two companies are operating separately.

Studio 8 – which will ship in mid-September – differs significantly from previous editions. FreeHand, an illustration application that competes with Adobe’s Illustrator, has been dropped. That was done, Guerard said, after surveying users.

Instead, being added to the suite are Contribute, a Web content management application, and Flash Paper, which converts files into Flash or PDF documents. That’s because users said they wanted more product maintenance and administration tools, he said.

The suite continues to be available in Windows and Macintosh versions.

“FreeHand continues to be an important product,” said Guerard, “and we will continue to sell it, support it and maintain it.”

As always, a new release of Studio is accompanied with an update to the free Flash Player, whose new capabilities developers can take advantage of through Flash 8.

Online video has been improved with a new codec, the display of text has been improved with a new text rendering engine while new runtime capabilities let creators add drop shadows and blurs to video.

Flash 8 has an easier to use interface so designers who don’t write code can also take advantage of these capabilities, said Guerard.

In addition new graphics effects and animation control tools are now in Flash, as well as tools for creating content for mobile devices.

Flash video can also be created through Dreamweaver 8, the Web site building tool, with no more than five mouse clicks, said Guerard. Those who have sites with blogs, RSS feeds and syndication of information will appreciate the ability to do visual authoring with XML data.

Dreamweaver will let designers create guides and zoom into layouts as design aids. Productivity improvements include a coding tool bar, the ability to collapse code and to do background file transfers while working.

Fireworks 8, for optimizing Web graphics, has improved interoperability with Dreamweaver and Flash, 25 more blend modes and better batch processing.

Besides shaking up its product line, the company has also mixing things up with its channel in Canada.

Rob Nascimben, country manager for Macromedia Canada, said the changes he instituted last year in the channel has seen a dramatic spike in the subsidiary’s indirect revenue.According to him, Macromedia Canada, in its last quarter had more than 50 per cent of its sales go through the channel.Macromedia Canada inside sales reps, who in the past sold directly to end user, were mandated to take all deals $10,000 or less to the channel.

“This created a much better economy for our resellers and allows us to focus on larger deals,” Nascimben said.

With the release of Studio 8, Nascimben added that he has listened to his channel partners feedback and made the upgrade options less complicated. He admitted the previous version was too confusing for resellers saying resellers were unable to upgrade some products and prices varied from Dreamweaver to Studio. “Basically we did not have a fixed way of doing it and VARs had questions, ordered the wrong products so we simplified this quite a bit,” he said.

The company will only sell one version of Studio 8, to avoid what it said was confusion in selling versions with Flash and Flash Professional. Full price of Studio 8 with Flash Pro will be US$999.

Macromedia is also changing the upgrade policy for these products. Until now users could only upgrade from the previous two versions of the software. With the release of the new versions users of any previous Studio suite or of the individual applications will be able upgrade at the special price. The Studio 8 upgrade is priced at US$399.

Guerard wouldn’t say how many users converted over the past two years to Studio MX, but denied the pricing change was because sales weren’t as good as the company hoped.

There will be no change to the list prices of the individual applications from their current prices.

With files from Paolo Del Nibletto.


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