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Firm aims to ease online graphics

Live Picture introduces a product it says will allow people to download and trade image-rich documents over the Net quickly and easily.

    The Net may be chock-full of compelling pictures and graphics, but getting them from the screen to the printed page is often a challenge that requires a lot of time and bandwidth.

    Looking to fix that problem, Live Picture today is introducing its "Network Publishing" program, which it says will allow people to download and trade image-rich documents over the Net quickly and easily.

    The company also is announcing that Adobe, Canon, and Sun Microsystems are providing technical support for the product, so it will work using their products and software.

    Live Picture is demonstrating the product today at the SeyboldSF publishing conference.

    The idea behind Network Publishing is to make it easy for individuals and businesses to share complicated documents across networks. Initially, the product will be aimed at Fortune 1000 companies.

    For instance, companies will be able to design brochures and then post them to their Web sites for distribution throughout the globe, said Kate Mitchell, president and chief executive of Live Picture.

    Even with all the computer technology available, most companies still find themselves printing and then distributing expensive brochures to their worldwide offices. While it is possible to use computers to download graphic images, it can take many hours using standard modems, especially when high-quality documents are involved.

    It also requires more lag time to publish and distribute the documents. With sales cycles getting shorter and shorter, that's becoming less and less practical, Mitchell said, noting: "That stuff gets outdated almost the week that it's printed."

    Live Picture uses a graphics standard, Flashpix, to link images to PDF (Portable Document Format) files, which are created and used in desktop publishing.

    Live Picture's image server then renders the appropriate high-resolution pages for printing, while serving screen-resolution pages for display.

    Sites using the software can post those documents to their Web sites and then make them available for easy download. The documents then can be printed on high-quality printers--at the same resolution they would have gotten from a printed brochure.

    The process is substantially faster and easier than downloading traditional graphics, Live Picture said.

    Mitchell and chairman John Sculley, former chief executive of both Pepsi and Apple Computer, said they see the product being used by companies to bridge the gap between desktop publishing and the Web.

    "We see this as a very large opportunity," Mitchell said. "It's a creative way to handle this shift in publishing."

    "We believe that image-rich desktop publishing will be the agent for change in a networked economy," Sculley said. "Up until now, [companies across networks] have not been able to utilize the same kind of image-rich documents that were created for standalone PCs."

    Whether the product changes the world, of course, remains to be seen.

    While Network Publishing is being marketed for business-to-business use, anyone could benefit from it--from the local store wanting people to download a brochure to companies designing posters for download.