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A Look Inside Macromedia

November 29, 1999
by Pat McClellan

Since the launch of Director Online two years ago, we've tried to keep you informed, not just about technical issues, but also about the business issues which affect you and your livelihood. Central to that concern is the well-being of Macromedia. Whether you own Macromedia stock or not, if you're making a substantial portion of your income by using Macromedia products, you are significantly invested.

Since I personally don't own any MACR stock, the day-to-day stock price is a minor interest. But the leadership, vision and direction of Macromedia should be a major concern for all of us. Decisions made in the halls of Macromedia directly affect the products and services we can offer our clients. And Macromedia's efficiency and wisdom -- or occasional lack thereof -- have a daily impact on our personal productivity.

We recently had the opportunity to have a conversation with David Mendels, Senior VP and General Manager of Web Publishing at Macromedia.

DOUG: David, let's start with that title of yours... what products fall under your leadership, and what are your specifc responsibilities? How do you work with Kevin Lynch?

DM: Kevin and I are a team -- the R&D, Documentation, Localization groups report to him, while the product management, marketing, business development groups report to me, but we share responsibility for all aspects of the web publishing business at Macromedia. The Web Publishing business is all of the products that most folks reading DOUG probably know, and is the whole company except for the shockwave.com entertainment portal and the new enterprise products we announced recently in conjunction with our merger with Andromedia.

DOUG: I know you've been around Macromedia for a while now. When did you start, and what are the various positions you've held with the company?

DM: Phew. I have been here quite a while -- almost 8 years now. I have been in a lot of different roles, from Latin America sales, to running our Japanese business and setting up our subsidiary there, to running our User Conference, to running the graphics products business at Macromedia, to my current role. (and a few other jobs as well...)

DOUG: Are you strictly a business-guy, or do you have some geek-DNA in you as well? Are you proficient with any of the products?

DM: I love my job because I love our products and I love working with our customers and with our product teams. I am not a hardcore user of any of our products but I have a decent understanding of basics of all of them. I do spend a lot of time with the product teams, customers, read all our specs and participate in the process of defining the product directions (some products more than others, of course). And I definitely have some geek-DNA (learned BASIC on a TRS-80 when I was 12...-;)

From my background, you would never have guessed this is where I would end up. Prior to Macromedia, I went to grad school at UC Berkeley and got a Master's in Japanese Studies... I wasn't studying either business or any tech related topics...actually my masters thesis was on the history and political role of the labor movement in Japan in the late 80s. I spent about 4 years (on and off) in Japan, partly before joining Macromedia and partly after.

DOUG: Many of us have seen your occasional posts to Direct-L and the other listservs. With all of your other duties, it must be a challenge to stay "in touch" with developers.

DM: I think there is nothing more important than understanding what our customers are saying. And it is part of why I enjoy my job. I started reading Direct-L when I was in Japan for Macromedia in 93 I think, and these days I subscribe to Flasher, Shocker, FreeHand-L, Extensibility-l, Xtras-l, SWIFF-INFO, and at any given point a bunch of beta lists as well and our usenet groups. I can't read every post, but I read some of all these lists just about every day. We don't always act as fast as folks on the lists would like on some issues, but all of these customer communities play a huge role at Macromedia in guiding us.

DOUG: It's been a turbulent year for you, with lots of great achievements and product releases, but also a few difficult days focused on the Shockwave Remote. I know you were directly involved in the resolution of that issue. What's the current status, and in retrospect, what did you take away from the discussion?

DM: It has actually been an awesome year at Macromedia. All of our products have been doing great and we are growing faster than ever in our history. Over 100 million people can view Shockwave content, over 180 million can view Flash content, Dreamweaver has become the number 1 HTML authoring tool on the market for professionals, shockwave.com has over 4 million members and is growing like mad, we have acquired a couple of really hot companies with some great technologies and people... We are having a blast.

But not everything can ever be working right all at the same time. In the summer, we made a bunch of mistakes with the Shockwave Remote launch. There were some good ideas there I think, but the execution was screwy in many (most?) regards. We jumped on it as rapidly as we could and fixed the most egregious of the problems -- it was a great example of how the various online communities have a very dramatic impact on what we do. Coming shortly, we actually will be implementing the save and send features of the remote in the shockwave.com site instead, and the remote will be coming out of Shockwave. And we made the shockmachine free (it is quite cool, check it out). Our shockwave.com team is trying to pioneer new forms of entertainment as well as a new type of business and it is going to keep evolving pretty rapidly.

DOUG: The launch of shockwave.com and the inordinate amount of time spent promoting it at UCON 99 seemed to indicate that web entertainment ("games, toons, and music") was a priority for Macromedia. Now, six months later, shockwave.com has been spun-off and Macromedia appears to have shifted the priority from web entertainment to more "serious" web applications development. Can you offer a little clarity on Macromedia's vision?

DM: Sure. We have two businesses that are very different. shockwave.com is a web entertainment portal, focused on becoming the leading site for great entertainment on the web. shockwave.com uses Macromedia technology and is an awesome showcase of it, but it is really focused on finding great talent to produce great entertainment, not on technology.

Macromedia is a software company focused on providing solutions to developers and companies who are trying to create the most compelling and effective sites on the web. We are best known today for our authoring tools and our multimedia players, but we are expanding rapidly to provide a more integrated and complete solution for the key problems companies are facing in building great web sites and web applications. The whole nature of web development has been evolving rapidly and we are as well as we watch the issues our customers are facing. Companies are no longer looking for the kind of brochureware sites that were the norm a few years ago. They now are building web applications for commerce, training, customer service; they have large teams and many contributors to the site. Talking to our customers, there is a whole range of new problems they are facing and so we are adding new products to address them.

The focus of these two companies is really very different so it makes a lot of sense to spin out shockwave.com so they can each operate as independent companies totally focused on their vision.

DOUG: One of the great things about Macromedia products is when they work together. Examples... Flash members in Director, Fireworks/Dreamweaver integration. In a general sense, what can we expect for your new product, Drumbeat? What's the vision for Drumbeat interaction with Dreamweaver and the other products?

DM: Drumbeat is the first visual authoring tool for Active Server Pages and Java Server Pages. It is a very powerful way to rapidly develop database driven web sites, applications and online storefronts. There are a lot of people using it together with Dreamweaver already, and there is actually a tutorial on our site about this. The Drumbeat and Dreamweaver teams are now actually sitting all together in our Redwood Shores office and working closely on future planning. It is early to be talking about specific features, but you certainly can expect some very interesting collaboration between the teams.

DOUG: Any word yet on UCON 2000? We're eager to start packing our bags!

DM: I don't think we have made the announcement yet because we are still trying to lock in the venue. It is really hard to get a place that can hold close to 3000 for a conference. I'll leak one rumor though: we are looking at having our first ever conference in New York this time, sometime in the fall.

DOUG: Thanks for your time.

DM: Thank you.

Patrick McClellan is Director Online's co-founder. Pat is Vice President, Managing Director for Jack Morton Worldwide, a global experiential marketing company. He is responsible for the San Francisco office, which helps major technology clients to develop marketing communications programs to reach enterprise and consumer audiences.

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