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Last week was a double whammy for RIA (Rich Internet Application) developers of Flash or Silverlight applications. Adobe announced that it was stopping the development of Flash for mobile, which will bring the inevitable end of Flash-based applications. In the same vein, Microsoft reported it was abandoning the development of Silverlight after the upcoming v5 release. Mobile platforms have refused to support these technologies, and HTML5 is clearly the future of web application development. It doesn’t mean that Silverlight and Flash are dead yet – they will be supported for quite some time.

Commercial ISVs who have aligned with Silverlight and Flash technologies are hurrying to change architectures to HTML (in some cases reversing decisions that were made recently). Atalasoft’s direct competitor Accusoft Pegasus has made huge investments in both Silverlight and Flash with their acquisition of Accusoft and Adeptol over the last couple years. We also have ISV customers who have built truly incredible commercial applications on Silverlight that leverage Atalasoft’s Silverlight controls. The time will soon come where these applications with a large install base will need to be re-architected.

At Atalasoft, we pioneered the development of the first pure zero-footprint HTML Document Viewer using AJAX technology and continue to focus our business around image-enabling web applications on this technology. While we will continue to support and enhance our Silverlight capabilities in the near future, the majority our UI resources will continue to be dedicated to visualization of documents and images over the web using HTML and HTML5 technologies.

Silverlight does provide some interesting capabilities for applications that need to distribute processing to the client and be deployed through a browser, but with the commoditization of the cloud and enterprise virtualization, this will become less of a need in the future. I am recommending to all but a select few clients that new projects leverage HTML5 and the power of the web. However there still are cases where Silverlight solves the problem very well, and I do expect a few of our customers will continue along this direction. Silverlight continues to be a great development platform – except now with a shorter life expectancy.

Atalasoft’s HTML Document Viewer, used in over a thousand applications on hundreds of thousands of servers, demonstrates how application developers can image-enable and scan-enable their web-based applications with Zero-Footprint HTML technology.

Today is exactly 4-months since Atalasoft become a Kofax company. Many of you have asked me how it’s going. The truth is it’s going very well and I’m learning a lot, but not without its challenges.

As General Manager, my job is to keep managing the business for growth and profitability. Even though our revenues are relatively small compared to the rest of Kofax, our growth rate and profitability is considerably higher which contributes positively to the ultimate goal of any public company – increase shareholder value.

In many acquisitions, integration into the business occurs very rapidly and deeply, causing many employees to leave in frustration. The plan for us was to do the opposite by keeping the business as independent as possible and integrating only critical back-end systems. Its working. So far we have kept all our employees, and actually have grown headcount by 3 since the acquisition. As in any business, the proof is in the numbers. I can’t be as transparent as we have been in the past, but will say that we have been knocking it out of the park, and intend on continuing this trend.

I’ve really enjoyed meeting the other Kofax colleagues throughout the world. These connections have enabled us to more quickly and efficiently expand to Europe. A few of us travelled to Las Vegas for an internal company kickoff where we were able to speak to other employees about Atalasoft and meet our Kofax colleagues. That event reaffirmed why I ultimately made the decision to be part of Kofax. It’s a lot of fun to be the worldwide leader in a business function as important as Capture. As a result of these connections we were able to quickly hire a new Developer Support Engineer and an Account Executive both located in Europe, enabling us to serve our EMEA partners much better.

Our development plans have accelerated as a result of this acquisition. We have been able to incorporate some amazing Kofax technology in an upcoming release of DotImage. We have never been more laser focused on Image-Enabling web portal applications. It’s always what we’ve done better than anyone, and it became crystal clear just how much room for growth and opportunity there is in this business.

As part of a public company, we must comply with SOX requirements which adds a fair amount of overhead to any process like approving invoices, ordering equipment, and accounting. It comes with the territory, but it’s hard not to find opportunities to improve. What excites me so much about B2B software are these very opportunities. The larger and more complex the company, the more opportunities there are to improve business processes whether it’s a simple email workflow process, or image-enabling your web portal application.

Today, Atalasoft announced it is being acquired by Kofax, a publically traded software company and the market leader in the Document Capture space.

As you may know, I founded the company in 2002, and bootstrapped it all the way. We never took outside funding, and grew the company by differentiating in an already established imaging SDK market. Selling the company wasn’t my motivation, but this opportunity changed my mind. I view this acquisition is very positive in many ways.

  • The Atalasoft business remains autonomous
  • No jobs are going away as a result of this acquisition, our office is not moving, and we get to keep our quirky company culture
  • We continue selling our products under the same licensing terms, and goto market strategy
  • We are given additional resources to innovate our products even faster
  • Positive exposure to the large enterprise market
  • Myself and employees with equity incentives get to pull some cards off the table
  • We join a winning team - have you checked Kofax’s stock lately?

Why did Kofax choose Atalasoft? Simply stated they found our products to have the best web-based imaging and capture technology on the market and found our team and business model to be very solid. I’m staying on for a couple years to ensure a successful transition and to continue to lead the business as General Manager.

In the last 12-months we’ve booked 5.2 million in sales with GAAP revenues of 3.8 million. In the last 12 months, our sales have grown 51% and revenues have grown 29%. With the added resources and Kofax’s enterprise market penetration we will continue this trend as a separate Kofax business unit.

What does this mean for our customers?

We have over 2500 customers in every imaginable market from small development shops to the Fortune 1000. Our licensing model is innovative – we have been successful in offering fixed fee royalty free licensing of our document imaging SDKs. That’s not changing. We will be offering new imaging capabilities at a more rapid rate, and will be integrating some of Kofax’s very unique technology over the coming months.

I’m very excited about the opportunity and looking forward to the next phase in Atalasoft’s growth!

Just over eight years ago, I left my job as a mechanical systems engineer at Hamilton Sundstrand on the hunch that I could build a successful software company. I learned a lot working in a large aerospace company, and was proud of my work. My last job was a systems engineer on the Convergent Nozzle Actuation System (CNAS) for the Joint Strike Fighter. See the photo below*.

JSF STOVL

I spent the entire previous year in 2002 learning to become a new dad, and building Atalasoft on nights and weekends. I barely slept! My day started at 6:45am where I would wake up and head to the office. I’d be home by 6 and spend a couple hours with my wife helping out with the baby. At about 7:30 or 8, I was programming until about 2:00 – 2:30am where I’d feed the baby and get to bed. Weekends were pretty much all programming and I survived on 4-hours of sleep. At the end of 2002, I realized I was earning more money at Atalasoft than I was as an engineer. My measure of success was to make a six figure income, and I was easily doing that between two jobs, and managed to pay off my credit card debt. In January my 401K was vested after being with the company 5 years. I knew I could pay my mortgage and other bills on my 2002 Atalasoft income of $85,000, so I walked out that door in January 2003 as a 28 year old clueless entrepreneur with the mission to build the first Imaging Toolkit for .NET developers.

Fast forward eight years, and here I am looking back at 2010**. What a remarkable year! After a flat 2009, our 2010 sales growth was 48%. Like most companies, 2009 was a particularly challenging year and the first time our growth trend turned upside down. IT budgets were frozen and companies weren’t buying anything – including Toolkits for their developer teams. It impacted us, but we overcame the challenge by focusing on profitability and NOT laying off our workforce. I’ll write a future post specifically about how we managed to reduce our expenses to get out of the slump and end up with a profitable 2009 with record breaking Q3 and Q4’s.

We made some changes in late 2009 and in the beginning of 2010 that accelerated the growth of our toolkit business, enabling us to achieve nearly 50% sales growth. Significantly growing an established company in one year generally requires making some pretty aggressive changes that always has the chance of backfiring. We bit the bullet and made these changes anyway. They included decreasing our SDK costs, requiring active maintenance to deploy runtime royalty free to desktops, and offering an OEM license that allows any type of server deployment for a reasonable fixed yearly fee. I can now tell you these changes were very successful. The chart below speaks for itself.

image

Since I founded the company, our financial goals have constantly increased. First it was to make more money than my engineering salary, then to hit $1 million in sales, and a few years later it was $5 million. In 2009, the goal quickly changed to just remain profitable! Today, I know we have the team, the vision, the customers, and the resources that will bring Atalasoft to the next milestone of $10 million in sales. Not in my wildest dreams did I think I’d be in this position when I walked out the door of Hamilton Sundstrand eight years ago. I owe my loving family, my brilliant team, and our great customers for making this a reality. I truly look forward to continuing this trend in 2011, meeting our new employees and customers, and having a lot of fun along the way!

* - Since I left, I believe they have gone through at least 3 more iterations, and it’s STILL not in production.
** – My family and I took a 2 week vacation in January before my wife went back to her PhD studies, so my reflection occurred a bit later than normal

Today, Atalasoft released Vizit 3.0 and we claim it will save a typical organization $2.5 million. It’s an outlandish claim, but we do cite IDC to back it up. Obviously, one has to take this information for what it’s worth and process it for their own situation. It might not ACTUALLY save your organization $2.5 million, but it WILL save you money. When we ran the analysis, we realized that the items that saved the most money were the biggest value propositions of the product. So what we end up with is a real list of capabilities that save real money and conveniently ordered by cost saving benefit.

This change in marketing is what hiring a seasoned executive as president of my company will do. I always say it’s about being remarkable. When Paul Yantus first joined us a couple weeks ago and presented his new marketing plan, I could see it was remarkable. He warned me that it’s different and bold and not everyone would love it. He’s right. My advisors told me I shouldn’t do it. But I did anyway. The entire team got all excited because we not only have a remarkable product, we now have remarkable marketing. I can’t wait to see what’s coming next!

Since I’m more of the technical founder and do not consider myself a marketer, I get even more excited talking product. The team worked very hard on this version of Vizit. We recognized that customers were looking for a SharePoint solution that would allow them to quickly view their documents without downloading the document or without the hassle of installing client software. We also learned that customers didn’t want to pay per-user fees for a view-only solution. Vizit Essential, part of Vizit 3.0, does exactly that. It’s easily installed by an IT Admin as a web part, and licensed per-server. We took what we have learned over the past 6 years developing zero-footprint document viewers in HTML and AJAX and built the worlds FASTEST document viewer for SharePoint supporting 300+ formats. All SharePoint users, no matter if they are local or remote, MAC or PC, Laptop or iPad will be able to view all documents in SharePoint without the need for ActiveX, Java, Flash, or Silverlight plug-ins.

VizitEssentialSS

What if you need to FIND your document but can’t figure out what’s what in the search results? Vizit Essential helps you with that as well. This screenshot shows the thumbnail views. Those thumbnails render real-time and load blazingly fast eliminating the need to take up extra space in your SharePoint database.

VizitEssentialSearch

If you need to EDIT the document, such as re-order pages, remove blank pages, change the properties, remove specks and borders, or annotate; all you need to do is launch Vizit Pro, formerly called Vizit SP.  and it lets you do all of that. Just click the Vizit Pro button in Vizit Essential.

VizitPro

If you don’t believe me, see for yourself, and try a live demo, download a free evaluation, or just learn more about Vizit. I’d love to hear about your experiences.

As 2009 comes to a close, I want to take this opportunity to wish you a happy holiday and thank you. You have helped fulfill my vision when I set out on this entrepreneurial journey ten years ago. That vision was to become the leading provider of .NET document imaging toolkits backed by remarkable in-house customer service. With thousands of SDKs sold and our continued focus on .NET Imaging technology, I believe we have met this vision.

While we experienced slowed growth in the first few months in 2009, we were lucky enough to see record sales growth in the second half of this year. However, in light of the fact that this economy has hit some businesses quite hard, we have introduced some reduced pricing in our latest version of DotImage including: 

  • Additional developer/build licenses priced at 1/3 of the original SDK cost.
  • As always, royalty-free single-user desktop licensing is included in the SDK
  • We have new OEM pricing available where Royalty-free SERVER distribution is available starting at $30k/yr. - or $6k/yr. for startup companies.
  • Patent pending Advanced Document Cleanup (ADC) is included in DotImage Document Imaging.

We do have a lot in store for 2010 as we grow our customer service team, and release even more features in DotImage 9.0 this spring. I sincerely hope you have a prosperous 2010 and that we can continue to be your .NET imaging partner.

A critical piece of any ECM is robust search capabilities. With SharePoint 2007, Microsoft scores well in search according to Gartner in their ECM Magic Quadrant, but will fair even better next year with the enhanced search features in SharePoint 2010. Atalasoft has recognized the need to improve the retrieval of documents in SharePoint by enhancing search of documents in the recent release of Atalasoft’s SharePoint Document Viewer, Vizit SP 2.0, which is available now and does not require a FAST license. These new search capabilities improve user productivity by reducing the time it takes to find and view documents stored in SharePoint.

Thumbnail Previews in Search Results

Thumbnail previews in search results make finding a document buried in search results much quicker. This capability is included in SharePoint 2010 only with an upgraded FAST Search license. However there is no need to wait for SharePoint 2010 and upgrade to an expensive FAST license. VizitSP 2.0, includes quick thumbnail previews in search results and is available for SharePoint 2007 and WSS 3.0.

There are some differences between the thumbnail previews in FAST and the thumbnail previews in Vizit SP. Vizit SP renders the thumbnails real-time eliminating the need for caching your entire database of documents. The rendering is triggered by clicking on the document bringing up a very lightweight scrollable viewer. Vizit SP also uses TIFF and PDF decoders that are optimized for the web.

Once the document is identified, it can be opened into a zero-footprint viewer without the need to download the document to the client and exit the SharePoint browsing environment.

Search on Specific Properties and Specific Content Types

SharePoint 2007 has an basic search capabilities that only allow you to search on indexed content and narrow results on specific properties of default content types. Many of your documents, such as a contract, purchase order, or invoice will have extended properties and be stored as a custom content type. Vizit SP 2.0 gives you column-based search where you can perform logical searches on specific fields, such as invoice number. The search results can be previewed, sorted, and opened directly into Vizit SP.

For more information on Vizit SP’s new search capabilities, please watch this video and visit www.vizitsp.com to learn more.

The 2009 SharePoint Conference was held last week in Las Vegas where Microsoft publically unveiled the new capabilities of SharePoint 2010.  This is the first event I can remember where the number of attendees was actually greater than advertised (7400+) and sold out 2 weeks before. This is coming off the announcement that despite the economy, SharePoint has experienced 30% growth, up to 1.3 billion in sales between July 2008 through June 2009. Unlike previous SharePoint focused events I’ve attended, this was the first where almost everyone was currently using or at least very knowledgeable with SharePoint. Being able to avoid the “What is SharePoint” and “I’m just trying to figure this all out” questions allowed us to quickly focus on real world problems (or opportunities as I like to consider them). Information Professionals are looking for ways to improve how to make their existing SharePoint implementations improve collaboration of people and information, and solve real line-of-business problems.

SharePoint is proving to be the perfect platform for building content management solutions, including scanned content. The number of companies focused on scanning and managing paper content in SharePoint was staggering. Exhibiting at the show were Atalasoft, Kodak, Kofax, PSIGEN, Canon, eCopy/Nuance, EMC, OpenText, LaserFishe, Fujitsu/KnowledgeLake, OnBase, SpringCM, OpenBee, and GoScan. Kodak and Kofax, two of the more well known companies, did not exhibit at the industry AIIM event earlier this year – which historically has been the place to be for ECM vendors. This is the first event where SharePoint meets ECM, or rather, ECM meets SharePoint!

Many of the attendees I spoke with were looking for very specific solutions built on SharePoint for their Line of Business needs including Accounts Payable/Receivable, Billing, Contracts management, and Claims Processing. This is a big step from previous years when many attendees were looking at much more basic needs. The new features in SharePoint 2010 will further the use of SharePoint for specific LOB needs.

At the show, Microsoft announced a number of great features in SharePoint 2010 that will have positive impact ECM in the Enterprise. Here are my top 5.

  • Document Sets - first class object that can contain multiple documents/objects
  • Large Lists supporting tens of millions of documents for improved scalability
  • Improved Search based on Fast (for a price)
  • Zero-Footprint Office Document Viewers (and associated API) for viewing and editing of Word, Excel, PowerPoint documents without the native office app.
  • Javascript API – will allow 3rd party vendors to build richer and more integrated UI’s in SharePoint

SPC09 VizitSP BoothAt the show Atalasoft announced Vizit SP 2.0 – the Document Image Viewer for SharePoint. We invite you to visit the re-launched website highlighting the new features at www.vizitsp.com.  The new features in Vizit SP hit a chord with many visitors to our booth when we demonstrated how easy it was to scan a single document from within a SharePoint library, find the document in SharePoint with enhanced search with thumbnail previews, open the document in a zero-footprint viewer, and index and edit the scanned document in a transactional workflow without any delay in downloading the document or installing/maintaining client software.

We heard from a lot of attendees looking to scan their documents into SharePoint, and for those with advanced scanning needs, we referred them to our production scanning partners, PSIGEN and Kodak. At the show, PSIGEN announced the PSIGEN/Atalasoft Product Bundle which for $6995 provides an end-to-end production document scanning, indexing, search, and viewing solution for SharePoint.

It was a very exciting week, great meetings with customers, partners, and prospects, and definitely the best event we’ve exhibited at this year. Expect to see us again next year!

Last month Atalasoft launched Vizit SP, a zero-footprint document image viewer for SharePoint. When we released DotImage in 2003, our goal was to help organizations build web-based document imaging solutions faster and with better technology. We did this by providing a powerful, yet easy to use API with many UI controls focused on document imaging including the very first AJAX based Zero-Footprint Image Viewer. Fast Forward to 2009 with our 7th major release of DotImage and with tens of thousands of successful server installations of our zero-footprint viewer. We solved the document image viewing, editing, and annotating problem pretty well for .NET developers. With the popularity of SharePoint we knew we had the right technology at the right time and made the decision to build Vizit SP (see my August 2008 blog article). This article explains more about the benefits of Vizit SP and a bit about how it works.

VizitPropertyEditingVizit SP’s core technology is DotImage and our zero-footprint document imaging technology. It provides a user interface for viewing, annotating, and editing scanned and faxed documents inside of SharePoint. We could have built a simple document viewer web part for SharePoint (many of our customers are doing this now with DotImage). However, after some research, we determined that a full viewing application was required that would include a view of not only the image, but a library explorer, property editor, and annotation tree. Think of Vizit SP as the RIA (Rich Internet Application) interface to work with document images in SharePoint. It’s a productivity application that leverages all of the document management features already a part of SharePoint, in a very easy to use, modern UI.

There are many uses for Vizit SP. Here are a few general ones.

Document Capture

Vizit SP really shines after the documents are submitted to SharePoint from a capture application when part of a workflow. I visited an insurance company recently where they had a requirement to manually QA a certain percentage of their indexed documents. You can do this in SharePoint by building a relatively simple workflow that emails QA staff with a link that opens the document directly into the Vizit SP viewer without requiring that the document be downloaded to the client, and without requiring any software installed on the client. The document can then be reviewed, properties edited to fix indexing mistakes, and if the document came in damaged, dirty, or upside-down, it can be cleaned up within the Vizit SP interface. To continue to collaborate on the document, annotations can be added, such as a text note and a freehand markup circling the problem area in the document.

It doesn’t matter where the images come from, it can be a desktop scanner, MFP, fax, production scanner, etc. There are many great capture solutions on the market today that probably fit your business quite well. Many of them have or are currently working on tight integrations with SharePoint. Some of these applications are built using TWAIN, ISIS, Image Viewing, and cleanup technology from our own toolkit, DotImage.

Document Retrieval

VizitPreviewer Vizit SP can be very helpful in finding documents stored in SharePoint. With the previewer functionality (available for no cost), you can quickly view a thumbnail preview of a document before deciding to open it. This prevents the user from downloading many documents before finding the correct one. When combined with the Vizit SP viewer, even more time is saved as only the first page of the document is downloaded to the client. The document is viewable much faster than downloading the entire document to the client, then opening in a client viewer.

Universal Document Viewing

The Previewer combined with the Vizit SP viewer provides a universal web-based viewer for all your common document formats stored in SharePoint including TIFF, PDF, and MS Word. Very soon Vizit SP will have the ability to open nearly 100 various formats including legacy formats, all office formats, and CAD documents. It’s unlikely that a user will have a client viewer installed that supports all flavors of TIFF plus 100 other formats. IT Administrators will no longer have to install or maintain client image viewing software. Help desk calls are reduced as the same viewer is used for remote clients and for Windows, Mac, and Linux PC’s.

Large Format TIFF and PDF Viewing

We specifically optimized our TIFF and PDF codecs for viewing large documents on the web. Our Zero-Footprint viewer breaks each page into tiles, then streams these tiles to the client in a similar fashion to Google maps. Very large scans, such as CAD documents, Oil Well Logs and Strip Charts that are stored as TIFFs cause most client viewers to be very sluggish or crash. Vizit SP will view these documents in just a couple of seconds. Zooming occurs instantly while the server creates a higher quality scale version with our optimized Scale-To-Gray resizing.

More information about Vizit SP can be found at www.vizitsp.com.

2008 was a very uncertain year for startup and early stage technology companies.  First there were warnings about a faltering economy with the real estate bust, then the credit crisis, then Sequoia’s infamous “R.I.P. Good Times” presentation, then finally, proof that the US and the entire world was entering what might be the worst recession in our lifetime. 2009 isn’t off to a great start. In just the first few weeks in 2009, we’ve seen thousands layoffs and cutbacks from well respected software companies like Microsoft and EMC. This is unknown territory for many of us running a software business.

I started Atalasoft during the economic slowdown in 2002 after the dot com bust. While today’s downturn is affecting more than just the tech industry, there are many similarities. It’s not easy to find funding being one. In 2002, it was just me trying to get a business off the ground. After looking briefly into external financing I decided to bootstrap my company and grow it organically. Bootstrapping seemed to be the way to go then, and I’m sure glad I did. I talk more about how I started Atalasoft in my post, From Nothing to Something.

I now can confidently say Atalasoft is a success. We now have 25 full time employees in our local Western Mass office, we’re profitable, and we’re growing. Despite the fact that last year we had a lot of customers with cancelled or stalled IT projects, our revenue grew 25% in 2008 (after 57% growth in 2007). Considering our competitors reports that revenue was flat or declining in 2008, we see our 25% growth to be a great accomplishment.

We have been bootstrapping it again – but this time not a new company, but a new product. In late 2007 we decided to build a product that can measurably save organizations money and leverages our existing zero-footprint document viewing IP. This product is called Vizit SP, Document Image Viewing for Microsoft SharePoint Server 2007 (MOSS). It will be released in a few days after over a year of market research, development, and testing. We were able to achieve this goal by using profits from our cash cow, DotImage to fund the development of Vizit. We researched the market, talked to potential customers, built relationships with industry recognized players, and are now in the midst of turning Atalasoft from a one product company to a two product company – all without any external financing, and during a recession.

Raising VC money isn’t for every business, and bank financing is never easy for a software company with limited tangible assets. The recession just makes it even harder. I believe that now IS a good time to start a new company, or launch a new product. This is the year for small agile companies to innovate while larger companies cut back and wait it out. If you can, use your profits to spin off a new product or new idea. I’ve leave you with a few suggestions to bootstrap a new product on a limited budget.

  1. Hire a dedicated product manager good at both marketing and product development. You have all you can do to keep your cash cow operating and moving forward. You need to fund at least one person to be exclusively thinking about this new product. If you can’t afford to hire a new person, pull one of your key developers or product managers off your core product.
  2. Understand the market. Don’t just whip out a product because you think its a good idea. Talk to some potential customers. If the target market is different than your existing product’s market, find new people to talk to.
  3. While market research is critically important, don’t overdo it. There is a point of diminishing returns. At some point you need to bite the bullet and build a prototype to test the market test before someone beats you to it.
  4. Build a simple prototype before committing to a full development team. Get feedback from the target audience, make sure the product idea “sticks” and if it does, start designing the real thing. Now is the time to quit or go back to the drawing board if you didn’t get it right. Things get a LOT more expensive from this point forward.
  5. While it might be tempting, don’t use contractors or offshore companies to build your product. You’re banking on this product being a success which means you’ll need your own employees to be the product experts.
  6. Use the SCRUM product development methodology, or a variant of it. Be agile.
  7. Make sure you have a budget for the new product, and track all activities related to the project separately from the core business. Even though you’re likely to have developers and marketers working on both products, you’ll need to track the % of time to analyze how much was spent on new product development, and how profitable you would have been if you didn’t invest in this new product.

I will humbly admit that we made a few mistakes when building Vizit SP that cost both time and money. An expensive way to learn a lesson, but the lessons were learned and at the end of the day, we followed the above steps and ended up with an awesome product that is being released at just the right time.

Recently Ralph Gammon from Document Imaging Report interviewed Jack Berlin, the CEO of Pegasus Imaging, about the new release of their Prizm Viewer, a heavy client 25MB ActiveX Document Viewer. Ralph asked about the new wave of AJAX based zero-footprint viewers on the market. This was his response:

"There is certainly some demand for lightweight viewers" he said. "If you are talking about users doing ad hoc viewing of images a couple times per month, I think zero footprint viewers work. However people doing imaging every day as part of their jobs, typically need the power of a locally installed application. It's our view that large corporate users especially are moving away from zero footprint viewers. They want the best performance and are willing to install software on their PCs to achieve it. Of course, they don't want deployment headaches. That's why we are always focused on improving our administrative tools."

Mr Berlin is right on one point, that customers are willing to pay for the best performance. That's exactly why our Zero Footprint Viewer is so popular. When viewing documents that are located on a server (which is the case for any ECM system) it's faster to start viewing the documents instantly in a browser by asynchronously streaming thumbnails and tiles of the document to the client opposed to downloading the entire document to the client for viewing.

Mr. Berlin is also correct on another point that IT administrators do not want deployment headaches. With Zero-Footprint, there are no deployment headaches as there is no software to install. It works with any modern browser on any Operating System including: IE, Firefox, Safari, Opera, and Chrome. With the right zero-footprint viewer, you don't have to give up features. Our viewer supports features such as markup with annotations, and editing and cleanup. DotImage 7.0, to be released soon, adds support for freehand annotations that performs as well as any thick-client freehand drawing tool.

Where Mr. Berlin is 100% incorrect is that users are moving away from zero-footprint viewers. In fact, the opposite is true. We have fortune 500 customers and ISVs who have purchased a total of over ten-thousand servers. They are each successfully using our Zero Footprint viewer to serve thousands of end users who view, edit, and annotate thousands of documents a day. Atalasoft understands the value that zero-footprint viewers brings to an enterprise level high production environment. This is why we continue to innovate our web-based imaging technology.

Our new product, Vizit SP, applies our zero-footprint viewer to SharePoint giving SharePoint users a zero-footprint document image manager that will scan, index, view, edit, and annotate PDF, TIFF, and Word documents in your SharePoint libraries and workflow.

Last week, Atalasoft exhibited at the DMS exhibition in Cologne, Germany to launch our SharePoint Suite of products called Vizit. It was the company's first European show. We were fortunate enough to have established a partnership with Kodak and exhibited in their booth instead of having our own. This was a great way for us to scope out the show, but also benefit in a big way. DMS was dominated by larger booths, and fortunately Kodak had a good sized booth dead center in the main aisle, also right next to the Microsoft booth.

IMG_0091Three of us attended this show and we thought it might be a little overkill for our small Kiosk...boy were we wrong. We hired a firm fluent in German language and culture to send out information packets (in German) to other exhibitors who might be interested in OEM'ing or reselling our products. They setup meetings for us ahead of time and kept all 3 of us very busy meeting other ISVs and Integrators making sure we didn't miss our important meetings. Not one of us spoke more than a couple words in German. I quickly learned not to introduce myself with "Guten Tag" as what followed was a German conversation that I had no chance of understanding. Luckily nearly everyone spoke English remarkably well.

What was wonderful about the Kiosk was that everything was done for us! We didn't have to ship anything, we didn't have to do anything substantial to setup or teardown. It was remarkably easier than the 10x20 booths or 10x10 booths that we usually exhibit in. The only hiccup was that Kodak used the Atalasoft logo for the main sign when we wanted the Vizit branding. We ended up printing a make-shift sign for Vizit instead.

IMG_0098 The best thing about this show as compared to similar shows in the US is the professionalism. This was not about handing out giveaways or giving hundreds of demos. It was about meeting with people, sitting them down, and getting business done. Everyone was dressed professional, mostly in suits (with branded nametags if you were an exhibitor). No loudspeakers and no iPod giveaways. Many CEO's and executives were in the booths ready to talk about their business and to share ideas. A wonderful venue to get down to business, learn more about the industry, and learn about companies that only do business in Europe or Germany.

Overall the show was great, and there proved to be a great deal of excitement about our free Vizit Scan-to-SharePoint for push scanning into SharePoint with Kodak scanners, Vizit Previewer for zero-footprint thumbnail previews of TIFF, PDF, and Word documents in SharePoint, and Vizit SP for Document Viewing and Imaging in SharePoint.

Most of us in the industry have heard it by now. Microsoft has sold more than 100 million licenses of Microsoft Office SharePoint 2007 (MOSS 2007) and it's likely Microsoft's fastest growing product of all time. According to a recent Osterman study, in 2007 50% of all organizations that use Exchange are also using SharePoint and that is expected to increase in 2008. The number of mission critical applications developed with SharePoint is 20% expected to double this year while the number of SharePoint applications are expected to quadruple.

Why is SharePoint Becoming so Popular?

SharePoint began as a portal solution most often used to replace network file shares. But there is a lot more to it than an elaborate file share. It's a full collaboration and content management suite with the roots of a full ECM. This potential is what's causing so much buzz in the ECM industry. SharePoint is very affordable at $100 or less per client license. And most importantly it's from Microsoft, the leading supplier of technology in the enterprise. A very powerful combination.

Using SharePoint for Document Management

Despite all of SharePoint's buzz and usefulness in enterprise departments and mid sized businesses, there are some serious holes - in particular when considering SharePoint as an ECM. Imaging support out of the box is limited. There is no simple way to capture and index documents into SharePoint without a tedious step-by-step processes. There is little image viewing capability to view PDF or TIFF documents directly inside of SharePoint. To view a document users have to download the entire document to their client PC, then hope their default viewers will view the document properly which is often NOT the case for TIFF documents. While SharePoint has workflow and search capabilities, it's limited. This is where 3rd parties are beginning to step in and if I've learned one thing about working with Microsoft it's that they rely and support 3rd party vendors in extending their platform into viable solutions.

Before the Osterman study was released, we had noticed an increase in customers using our Zero-Footprint Viewing technology in SharePoint. We had to fully understand SharePoint for ourselves in order to support our customer's SharePoint integrations of DotImage. With our innovative and advanced web-based imaging technology, and after some research, it became obvious to us that there is a demand for applying this technology as an imaging solution for SharePoint.

Atalasoft's SharePoint Imaging Solution

For over a year now we have been building a solution to fill the imaging gap in SharePoint by applying the industry's best Zero-Footprint Document Viewing technology available in our DotImage toolkit to SharePoint. The goal is to enable SMB's and Enterprise Departments to leverage SharePoint for a highly customizable and affordable ECM solution.

  • We are providing simple, and FREE scanning to SharePoint that integrates with a leading scanner manufacturer (to be announced soon) for true push scanning into SharePoint.
  • We are providing a Zero-Footprint Previewer application as a totally FREE server application that gives users fast viewing access to TIFF, PDF, and Word documents stored in any SharePoint Document Library.
  • We are providing an advanced Zero-Footprint viewer that will view most common document formats in SharePoint including TIFF, PDF, and Word. It supports editing properties while viewing the document (indexing), annotating and collaboration, and document cleanup without installing any client software in a modern and very usable user interface - all you need is a browser.

This product suite is called Vizit, it's very powerful, very affordable, and will be launched as a public beta, with some pieces production ready at the DMS Show in Germany on September 9th - 11th.

Last month marked the successful completion of our 31 Apps in 31 Days effort where Atalasoft developers (including yours truly) developed and deployed 31 applications using the DotImage 6.0 Toolkit in 31 days, with full source code. The goal was to create small applications using our toolkit during our normal workday. It was quite an undertaking for us, but demonstrates just how quickly developers can build something interesting (and useful) using our toolkit. Most of these apps took less than 4 hours for a single developer to create - and some make some pretty useful tools.

I managed to submit 2 applications of my own:
Document Capture to the Amazon S3 Cloud and FlingScan: Searchable PDF Service.

Some of my favorites are:

These days I rarely open up visual studio as my CEO duties generally prevent that; but it's nice to get my hands wet every now and then.

Anyone at TechEd this week? If so, see you in Orlando.

ElainesRoses Before picking up the phone to call a software company's technical support, how many of these questions cross your mind?

  • They wont talk to me until I show them the money
  • I'll be on hold forever, just to leave a voicemail that goes unanswered
  • I'm going to be directed to someone in India
  • I'm going to be speaking to someone who knows less about the product than I do.

My guess is all of the above, and then some. Why do so many software companies not invest in technical support? Most software executives see technical support only as necessary, or sometimes unnecessary, overhead.  For a company with hundreds or thousands of customers there's no question that good technical support is very expensive.

At Atalasoft, we recognize that supporting our customers is worth the cost of hiring friendly, bright, and experienced engineers that work right alongside our product development team - yes, right here in Western Massachusetts. If you call our support department (and I encourage you to do so, even if you aren't yet a customer) you will probably speak with Elaine or Kevin, our full time developer support engineers, who yes - unlike the title of Elaine's blog, are very good software developers themselves.

Let me share with you a recent email from a customer. In it reads:

"The project is a little behind schedule, but I kind of expected that.  We have completely converted our document management system from [a competing vendor] to Atalasoft.  The project is in beta testing now.

Support has been great, no complaints from me.  With the help of your support team, I was able to extend the SDK and create my own cloud annotation.  I was a little worried at first, because [the competing vendor] told me that your support group was outside of the USA."

This struck me, because obviously all our employees are within the US, including our support department. Our competitor's sales department mislead their customer; perhaps out of desperation because they were going to lose the deal. Our value proposition was enough for the deal to go our way, even with the misconception that our support would be outside the US.

How many software companies have fans that will provide free Pizza because of our helpful support. And what about those 2-dozen yellow roses that were sent to Elaine for helping out a particularly happy customer! (I can't mention the company yet, but lets just say the gift is right up their alley)

With the release of DotImage 6.0 just over a month ago, EVERY customer receives our gold level of support for 3 months. At Atalasoft, we understand customer support can be the difference between a project's wild success or utter failure, and ensure the best service we can possibly deliver.

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