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Macromedia pushes subscription plan

The company announces a new software-by-subscription program along with an upgrade to its MX line of products.

Macromedia on Monday will announce a new software-by-subscription program along with an upgrade to its MX line of products.

The company's new subscription service, Macromedia DevNet, will come in two flavors. The professional version gives subscribers access to the latest updates of the company's main tools for Web development and design, including Flash and Dreamweaver, both of which are likely to be the subject of upgrades by the end of this year.

Subscribers also get access to developer resource kits, periodic add-ons that Macromedia releases to extend its major tools and provide tutorials, sample applications and other ancillary content. The professional service will cost $1,499 per year.

The Essential version of the service, at $299 a year, gives developers who already have the major Macromedia tools access to the resource kits, which Macromedia plans to release quarterly.

Software makers have increasingly turned to subscriptions as a way to generate steadier revenue by ensuring adoption of product upgrades. Autodesk has been successful in moving many customers for its drafting and design tools to subscription plans.

Not all efforts have been without controversy. Microsoft has tried to lock in customers for software upgrades in a similar way with a new multiyear licensing plan paid in annual installments. But many customers have balked at the move.

Tom Hale, senior vice president of business strategies for Macromedia, said subscriptions benefit customers by giving them reliable access to the latest tools and allowing them to budget more reliably for software purchases.

"It's great for corporations that want a predictable annual expense for these kinds of tools," he said. "It's a new way to for us to deliver more value to our customers outside our standard 18-month product cycle."

Also on Monday, Macromedia will release a new version of FreeHand, its illustration tool primarily used by graphics designers and other publishing professionals. FreeHand MX will become the last major Macromedia application to join the MX line, Macromedia's designation for its strategy to deliver tools that improve the presentation and functionality of Web applications.

FreeHand MX includes new tools that allow artwork to be easily reformatted for different media and a user interface that conforms to other MX products. The software is available now for $399 for the full version, $149 for those upgrading from FreeHand 9, and $99 for those upgrading from FreeHand 10.

Hale noted that the previous release, FreeHand 10, was the first major development tool to work under Apple Computer's Mac OS X operating system. "FreeHand was the first tool on Mac OS X," he said. "This is really the first second-generation tool on OS X."

FreeHand MX will also be part of the new version of Studio, Macromedia's package of design and development tools. Studio MX Plus will include recent developer resource kits and Contribute, Macromedia's new light-duty Web publishing tool. Studio MX Plus is available for $899.