Testing Loyalties (or, DAM, Politics, Religion and Sex)

Around the middle of 2007 iView will be no more and the much-loved MediaPro will become Microsoft Expression Media. Microsoft purchased iView Multimedia in June 2006.

Recently Microsoft has been quietly informing us that the first version of Expression Media will essentially be the same as the current MediaPro 3. In other words, don’t expect anything new.

Adobe used a similar tactic with an early pubic beta of Photoshop Lightroom. Many expected Lightroom to be the DAM application to replace programs like iView. However Adobe discretely said Lightroom would not have many DAM features. It was a way of reducing users expectations on the DAM capabilities of Lightroom v1.

While I’m not a spin doctor it seems a common PR tactic. Politicians do the same when it comes to bad news. They leak the bad news before the public announcement/release to soften the blow. We get used to it or worse just forget it.

Many current users expected Expression Media to be what iView MediaPro 4 would have been. Especially since MediaPro is due a major update and Microsoft are putting a 50% premium on the price once it becomes Expression Media.

Microsoft has publicly stated they see iView users as being very loyal customers. They are banking on them to stay with MediaPro during its evolution into Expression Media. And why wouldn’t they? Microsoft is giving registered MediaPro users a free license for Expression Media when it is released.

Nevertheless Microsoft is testing iView users loyalty. They are a very passionate lot, many well known photographers use MediaPro and are great evangelists for the product. iView started out as an Mac only product and that loyalty is strongest amongst Apple users. Those Mac owners are not simply loyal customers, some are as just as passionate against Microsoft.

One-eyed zealots are a dangerous lot whether that is for camera brands, operating systems, religious beliefs or political affiliations. They are not rational.

Professional photographers need to approach business decisions with a level head. DAM is a vital part of any professional business. For example, if Canon continue the megapixel race but Nikon do not then it’s likely some clients won’t accept Nikon digital files. If Microsoft manages to stuff up iView then users will go elsewhere too. By the same token if Microsoft develops MediaPro with the same philosophy iView have then Expression Media will continue to evolve into the dominant DAM solution for photographers.

I’ve managed to associate religion and politics with DAM. Just to round it off I should finish with the other taboo subject matter. A part of iView’s appeal is, well for DAM – it’s sexy. iView is a visually appealing application to use, as are Adobe Lightroom and Apple Aperture. Compare them to Mediadex/Cumulus. DAM can be a very dry topic and one many would rather avoid. I don’t think Microsoft do sexy well. It’s even worse when they try.

The screen shots Microsoft have posted of Expression Media shows a new “skin”, that is, the interface will change – if only in colour. What Microsoft should be doing is listen to the major gripes of current users and fix those for Expression Media. Some requests in the iView forums include a dual display option, increase in database size, and a hierarchical display of keywords. The perceived competitors are already doing this and we know iView had these in their roadmap.

With the new parents MediaPro has a great resource in Microsoft. They now have access to more marketing clout, better support options, more engineers, and higher quality control. In other words MediaPro can become a much better product as Expression Media. iView’s previous owner Yan Calotychos has said he had many ideas for his product but was constrained as a small company.

As a part of the world’s largest software company MediaPro can now fly. Rather than tell us what iView won’t be Microsoft should telling us what Expression Media can be.