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12/1/2005
07:22 PM
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TransMedia Plans Enterprise Sharing and E-Commerce Software

New Glide hosted software could be latest threat to Microsoft's desktop productivity apps

Following up on its Wednesday debut of hosted file sharing, shopping, and collaboration service Glide Effortless, New York-based TransMedia next week plans to announce new browser-based business tools for e-commerce administration, data synchronization, project management, and document creation.

The hosted applications are due to be released in the first quarter of 2006 under the rubric Glide Business. They will include online environments designed to complement Transmedia's consumer application suite and to facilitate the commercialization of digital media assets like music and movies.

"It's the other half of the media eco-system," explains CEO Donald Leka.

Glide Create Shops, for example, will enable content owners to set up an online store to sell digital content to consumers through the forthcoming Glide Shops environment.

Glide At Work is designed to enable workers to synchronize workplace files with home computers in order to work remotely under permissions set by an IT administrator.

There's also Glide Projects, a drag-and-drop project management application that Leka says was designed as an easy-to-use, online alternative Microsoft Project. "Because you have the integrated file sharing and rights management, that makes it very, very powerful for people to manage projects online," he says.

Finally, Glide Docs adds browser-based multimedia document creation with automated PDF output. Users in different locations will be able to collaborate on Glide Docs files using Glide LiveShare and MailShare.

While neither Glide Projects nor Glide Docs represent an immediate threat to Microsoft Project or Microsoft Office, they can be seen as part of the rain falling on Microsoft's parade. The past year has seen a proliferation of software and services offering ways to work that marginalize Microsoft's dominant desktop productivity software.

Microsoft has recognized this and is moving rapidly to offer competitive hosted applications. But it remains vulnerable to innovative platform-agnostic services -- particularly those subsidized by online ad revenue -- because it can't use its control of Windows to add platform-specific value.

Indeed, the value of the platform, which is to say the operating system, appears to be diminishing. That's not to suggest that Microsoft's Windows or Apple's Mac OS X have become worthless. Far from it. But the push to make data portable, to allow for seamless network connectivity across a variety of devices at different locations, suggests there's more value in fostering connected, commercialized eco-systems than there is in controlling platform fiefdoms.

While "platform" and "eco-system" are both reasonably apt metaphors for the abstract world of software, the latter term better describes the open, networked world that encompasses a variety of computing architectures.

The eco-system that concerns TransMedia is the emerging digital media market, which didn't really exist until Apple, with its iPod and iTunes Music Store, proved it was more than pie in the sky. And now those with digital assets hunger for a slice of what Apple's eating.

Scott Crowder, COO of Entriq Corporation, a digital media e-commerce infrastructure provider, agrees that Apple's success has been a wake-up call for major media companies. Now, he says, they're scrambling to participate in the market for online content. "They don't want to be left behind," he says.

Gartner analyst Allen Weiner observes that companies like TransMedia and Entriq, by promoting eco-systems where content can be sold, are building a legitimate market for digital assets much more quickly than many in the industry anticipated. "The rapid deployment of content and the developing of content -- the ability for people to download, to make it portable, to put it on players -- really I think has accelerated the development of monetization schemes," he says.

The American Society for Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) has been using a precursor to Glide, TransMedia's enterprise media management software Colaborata. Mark Palermo, ASCAP's director of special projects for new media and technology, gives the software high marks for its collaboration and sharing features. "We have offices nationwide," he explains. "To be able to not burn a CD every time you want to share music with someone, to not clog your inbox, is a beautiful thing."

As an organization that relies on intellectual property, ASCAP has a strong interest in licensed music distribution. Palermo says he's anxious to give Glide a try. "It's fair to say there are obvious benefits to being able to deliver content securely if you own content," he observes.

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