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9/13/2006
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TransMedia Adds Office Apps To Its Glide Document-Sharing Service

TransMedia plans to launch business and academic versions of Glide, its consumer online application and social networking suite.

A year after the release of Glide Effortless, its suite of online integrated media-sharing and social networking applications, TransMedia is redoubling its effort to challenge Apple, Microsoft, MySpace, and Google.

In early October, the New York-based company plans to release the second version of its Glide platform, to which at the end of that month will be added a desktop spreadsheet application and an online version that duplicates many of Microsoft Excel's functions.

TransMedia's encroachment on Microsoft Office territory will continue in November, when the company plans to introduce local applications that compete with Word, PowerPoint, and Outlook, as well as local versions of its online contact and calendar applications. TransMedia's desktop applications will be released initially for Windows, with Mac OS versions coming 30 to 60 days later.

At the same time, TransMedia is expanding its target audience to include businesses and universities. Glide Effortless, the consumer version of the service, is being rebranded Glide Next, which will be joined by Glide Business and Glide Campus. These latter two offerings will include more sophisticated administration and management tools for secure collaboration across workgroups, divisions, and organizations.

Price details for business-oriented services have yet to be announced. The consumer plans currently range from free to $49.95 a year.

In the first of what is likely to be many such deals, TransMedia is in the process of deploying Glide for users at American University in Washington, D.C.

"Our graduate journalism and film students launched the Glide Campus pilot project at the end of August and they are impressed by what it can do for them," Larry Kirkman, the University's Dean of the School of Communication, said via e-mail. "This is a powerful sharing and communication platform that has great potential for our students, faculty and alumni."

Since its initial release, the Glide service has promised more than it could deliver, which isn't altogether surprising considering the scope of its ambitions. Its user base, currently about 250,000, might be a lot more had the company not opted to require a credit card number as a means of identity verification, even for its free accounts.

With the elimination of that barrier to entry (mobile phone numbers will serve as an alternative means to prevent abusive account registration), a revamped interface, and its own suite of productivity apps, TransMedia may have finally created a computing environment that provides what remains difficult for most PC users--the ability to easily store, share, and synchronize files across computers and mobile devices, without giving up control of those files.

"We were never in a rush to build an audience at all expense like YouTube and MySpace," says Donald Leka, CEO of TransMedia. "We believe these companies represent a trend that will not stand the test of time. Our plan is long term--to create a safe personal and social networking environment online."

Trying to describe Glide is difficult because there's so much to it. At its heart, it's an online file storage and sharing service built atop a digital rights management system. It also includes a system to sell digital content and real-world goods. And increasingly, with the addition of word processing and photo editing software, it has becoming a platform for content creation.

Glide 2.0 features a complete redesign of the company's innovative but often confusing interface that more closely hews to user expectation. In addition to Glide's existing environments, which include an online calendar, contacts, conferencing, photos, music, and video, to name a few, the latest iteration of the service features the new Glide Online Photo Editor & Print Shop, a Web-based consumer photo editing suite along the lines of Google's Picasa.

There's also Glide Presenter, an online presentation tool that can import Microsoft PowerPoint files. The software can create huge multimedia shows that don't impose a storage burden on recipients because they're streamed on-demand rather than downloaded. It also has the advantage of Glide's rights management system, which can be used to track viewings of presentations and prevent unauthorized distribution.

Glide Write, TransMedia's recently released online word processing application (and the tool with which this article was written), gains several new features, notably new formatting options and integration with Glide Blogs and major third-party blogging services. And Glide Spreadsheet is a full-fledged desktop and online financial app that supports formulas and macros.

As part of the 2.0 release, Glide is adding support for a slew of new mobile devices, including Motorola Q, Rim BlackBerry 8700c/g, T-Mobile SDA, Palm Treo 700p, Palm Treo 650, Samsung SPH-I730, O2 Xda IIs, BlackBerry 7100 Series, Sony Ericsson P900, HP iPAQ h6315, Kyocera 7135, Audiovox SMT560, Audiovox PPC 6600 Pocket PC, Motorola MPx220, Motorola V276, and Motorola E815 EV-DO. Glide currently runs on Palm Treo 700w, Sony Ericsson W600i, and Motorola RAZR V3.

It may seem laughable to suggest that a small company like TransMedia can really compete with the titans of the tech industry. And in fairness to Microsoft, online applications like Glide Write, not to mention Google's Writely, fall short of Word in terms of depth of features, ease of use, and responsiveness (though the local version of Glide Write should eliminate bandwidth-induced sluggishness). But Microsoft Office is also expensive compared to its challengers and full of features most users don't need.

"The companies that will be the most affected by products like ours will be the ones that overcharge for their products," says Leka. He adds that executives from major companies he has met with are eager to have alternatives to expensive software licenses.

With the addition of desktop word processing, presentation, and spreadsheet applications to its service, TransMedia has a shot at that business.

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