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Now Software and the Mac/PC Office: Diversity in the Workplace

By John P. Mello Jr. MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
Apr 20, 2009 4:00 AM PT

While it's always nice to be the first mover in a market, there's some satisfaction in grinding it out in a niche and watching a market move into your wheelhouse. That seems to be the case with Now Software.

Now Software and the Mac/PC Office: Diversity in the Workplace

The Columbus, Ohio, maker of contact and calendar software is poised to take advantage of two burgeoning trends: information sharing and the increased presence of Macintosh computers on business networks.

Although Apple personal computers come armed out of the box with calendar and contact applications in the form of iCal and Address Book, Now's approach has been to raise the power bar to lure customers to its wares.

"What we're starting to see is pockets of people looking for a more powerful feature set, something that gives them the ability to work within a work group of people to coordinate their efforts," Now President John Wallace told MacNewsWorld.

"It's not so much a person-standing-alone-by-themselves kind of world anymore," he added.

Collaboration Is Key

Now's software can trace its roots back to the mid-1990s and Mac OS 7. Hailed as a pioneering application in cross-platform personal productivity because it could run on both Macs and PCs, the calendar-contact duo, Now Up To Date and Now Contact, were acquired by San Diego-based Qualcomm in 1997. In 1999, the programs were licensed to Power On Software, which was then headed by Wallace.

"When Now Up To Date was introduced, it was revolutionary," John Chaffee told MacNewsWorld. "There was nothing like it at the time, and it was the standard back in the early '90s." Chaffee, president of BusyMac in Seattle, along with his current partner Dave Riggle, were the original developers of Now Up To Date.

"When OS X came out," he continued, "Apple introduced iCal, which was part of the operating system and you got it for free, and it made it more difficult for third-party calendaring applications to compete."

"But iCal has never really done a great job of collaboration," he asserted.

Rebuilding the App

So it seems the market is being herded in Now Software's direction, where the company is waiting with a new version of its calendar and contact application called "Now X."

Now X, currently in beta, is a total rewrite from the ground up of its predecessor, a process that delayed release of the product for years. Two big drags on the redevelopment efforts cited by Now President Wallace were duplicating the broad feature set of a program enriched over years of time and mapping the upgrade path for those features.

"Now Up To Date and Contact was hard to change -- hard to add new features, limited in what we could do with calendar and contact management," Wallace explained. "With Now X, we've built a platform where not only can we build the calendar and contact applications we've got, but also a lot of other business tools."

"One of our business goals," he continued, "is to move into larger and larger organizations that have a need for project management, CRM and sales features and do that in a way that works on the Mac desktop, the Windows desktop and ultimately, on the Web."

'A Heterogeneous World'

Asked if the Mac's reputation as a consumer machine has created challenges for Now when it tries to sell enterprise operators on its software, Wallace downplayed the notion.

"Apple's ascendency as a consumer machine hasn't hurt us at all," he avowed. "As a matter of fact, I think it's helped us because we're starting to see a lot of people bringing Macs into their homes, liking them, and taking them into the workplace."

"We're finding a lot of places," he continued, "that are enjoying Macs in the workplace that were PC-only shops. That's not the way things are anymore. It's definitely a heterogeneous world."

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