February 1, 1998

TallPine’s software targets e-commerce sales growth

Need an electronic catalog of stock photos or graphics to publish in your newsletter? Need to know the latest warehouse costs for software? Are you frustrated because print catalogs have outdated prices? Pressed for time and need a gift fast?

You’re not alone — 1997 was a gangbuster year for Web catalog shopping, doubling figures for 1996. Boston’s Forrester Research notes that 8 percent of all catalog sales occur through e-commerce Web sites.

One Boulder company, TallPine Technologies Inc. (www.tallpine.com), is offering a new, patented solution, called SmartWidgets, for companies publishing catalog and presentation information over the Web in multimedia format.

“We’re coming in at the e-commerce opportunity. Our target market is in well-established categories, such as telecom, industrial construction, consumer electronics, retail — any company that needs a catalog solution,” says Bob Anderson, chief operating officer for TallPine,

a four-person company founded in 1995 to develop custom software and

services.

Typically, electronic catalogs are developed for the Web using the popular programming syntax, HTML, or Hypertext Markup Language, to code Web pages. SmartWidgets “incorporates an older, more robust syntax, called SGML (Standard Generalized Markup Language),” Anderson says.

SGML, developed at IBM in the early 80s, is an ISO standard that supplies a formal notation for the definition of generalized markup languages, most often used in publishing textual documents.

“Many publishers have already invested in SGML; TallPine enables them to leverage that investment,” Anderson says. SmartWidgets combines static CD-ROM publishing and dynamic, real-time Web publishing, the two most popular electronic distribution methods.

“Publishers can first deliver their catalogs or presentations to their customers through a CD-ROM that includes SmartWidgets technology, then later distribute updates and revisions through the Web, thus eliminating the need for republishing the CDS,” Anderson says.

SmartWidgets, which you can run on a Mac or PC platform, works like this:

“You download and install the SmartPlayer from our site onto your desktop one time. This process brings down the templates and indexes you need for updating information. You can then run SmartWidgets presentations or catalogs from the Internet, CD or floppy without using your Web browser,” Anderson explains. “Customers can get free, easy updates over the

Web, ensuring that they always have the latest information. This cuts costs while providing a more streamlined publishing process and overall better service.”

When you load a CD-ROM, both the information contained on the CD and the updates posted on the publisher’s Web site are viewed as a single information source, making updates to the information effortless and completely transparent, according to Anderson. When prices or product descriptions change, the SmartWidgets technology on the CD finds it on the

Web site and automatically updates the CD.

Originally, SmartWidgets was designed for companies to take their presentations to trade shows or clients. They just pop a CD-ROM into a kiosk, download the latest info from the Web, then run the CD.

“They’re always updated and you never have to worry about slow bandwidth while

connected to the Internet during a presentation.”

Randy Burgess, president of the Command Z Group in Boulder, a marketing and communications company, says: “Catalogs that are done in HTML is a painful, difficult process. Things look different in Netscape vs. Internet Explorer vs. AOL browsers. It’s never different in a SmartWidgets environment. Everything stays put on a page; you don’t have to scroll

around as you do in HTML. The SmartPlayer chooses the best screen size and highest color resolution based on your monitor.”

That’s one reason Stock Imagery of Denver (www.stockimagery.com) has used SmartWidgets since late last year.

“We license existing photographs and illustrations to international advertising agencies, who sell our work to publications such as Time and National Geographic,” says Phil Lawson, chief operating officer. “The color and imagery has to be flawless and consistent.

“Traditionally, we printed expensive, hardcopy catalogs that were quickly out of date.” So, after the company experts evaluated Web tools, including ColdFusion and Quark Immedia, for publishing electronic catalogs, he decided to go with SmartWidgets.

Once the SmartPlayer downloads, it launches into the Stock Imagery Web site, where you see three catalogs, each holding approximately 2,000 images that can be updated instantly. “The resolution is the best there is, and that’s our trademark. In browsers, it’s unpredictable.”

Roger Lee Anthony, a Webmaster at Englewood-basedVerio (www.verio.com), a national Internet service provider that offers e-commerce storefront catalogs, recently tried SmartWidgets.

“I liked that it was a browserless application — it’s a good first try. However, I was

already using ColdFusion and knew that I could do what they did easier and faster. I have to edit templates in data files and merge them together. I had 2,000 lines of code and I didn’t feel like converting everything. I already know HTML and didn’t want to learn a new language (SGML). Besides, it’s not as robust as ColdFusion.”

Burgess counters, “This is a misleading response. Everyone says they can do whatever more quickly in their favorite HTML environment, when in fact, HTML has limitations. Programmers are threatened; they don’t like the idea that you don’t have to be a programmer in this environment. You just design or update the page and SmartWidgets technology codes it for

you. It takes new media publishing from the hands of programmers and returns it to the publishers.”

Jerry Krutar, a partner at AI Digital in Denver (www.ai-corp.com), concurs. As a value-added reseller, or VAR, for TallPine, his company uses SmartWidgets when it designs and produces multimedia solutions for clients.

“One nice thing is that the visual template doesn’t have to be the same as in print. You can customize it. For instance, if you see a sweatshirt online that you like, you can ask for the printout to have the item description, cost, company name, address, or whatever. Or with a sofa,

you can print out 20 different fabric selections that you don’t see online without layering pages. You can mix and match. This can’t be done in HTML.”

Although there is no “hard price” to purchase the SmartWidgets technology, Anderson says it’s in the $7,000 range, including tools and training, for a complete catalog with 1,000 images.

However, “We’re planning move from a turnkey site to offering a suite of software tools to empower the creative community so they can do graphics and authoring themselves. We’ll give them the tools, canned templates and management systems that they can license from us.”

He adds, “Our fund raising with venture capitalists and investment bankers is going well. Our sales are about $90,000 since June, and we project $21 million by 2001.”

Need an electronic catalog of stock photos or graphics to publish in your newsletter? Need to know the latest warehouse costs for software? Are you frustrated because print catalogs have outdated prices? Pressed for time and need a gift fast?

You’re not alone — 1997 was a gangbuster year for Web catalog shopping, doubling figures for 1996. Boston’s Forrester Research notes that 8 percent of all catalog sales occur through e-commerce Web sites.

One Boulder company, TallPine Technologies Inc. (www.tallpine.com), is offering a new, patented solution, called SmartWidgets, for companies publishing catalog…

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