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Wisconsin startup delivers project management relief to creative firms and ad agencies

Green Bay, Wis. - Epicsoft, based in Green Bay, has announced a new Web-based collaboration package using a Flash interface to reach out to creative agencies and their clients.

The system will allow logins with adjustable permissions from designers, project managers and clients. It is intended as a central solution for keeping track of project-related conversations, documents and files, the company said.

"Typically, Inspire is replacing ad-hoc systems which involve a combination of e-mail, FTP, and snail mail -- none of which are typically considered accessible, auditable, or collaborative in nature," said Ryan Moore, technical director of the Inspire project.

Epicsoft is a subsidiary of Balance Studios, an animation and broadband design company that handles the kind of creative work Epicsoft designs tools for.

"We are a production studio ourselves, so we are working hand in hand with agencies and creative organizations all over the world every single day,and we understand what is needed to do that," said Tina Lutz, Balance Studios' director of sales.
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Inspire is a departure from the usual Web-based application formed of HTML pages. Its Flash interface is designed to give users an experience more similar to the desktop than the Web. The system is divided into "rooms" with different purposes, such as design or video production.

Flash is the only component that users' machines must support, though Quicktime is also required for projects involving digital video. The other technologies used in Inspire, including Microsoft .NET and SQL, are kept on a hosted production server.

"Flash, in some [version,] is accessible by over 95% of the Internet user population, according to the latest statistics from Macromedia," Moore said. "Flash’s ubiquity made it an easy choice for the user interface because we could be assured of a positive, interactive user experience, on nearly any Internet-connected device in the world."

Inspire will hit the market April 15. As a hosted service, it will cost a monthly, per-user fee and will allow access from anywhere with a Web browser.

Epicsoft has used creative tools similar to Inspire in various industries, including advertising, video and audio production, and state and local governments, said Dana VanDen Heuvel, new media director for Epicsoft.

Future developments are planned to increase the number of features, not necessarily the types of users. The Flash interface and video and audio capabilities are aimed at creative agencies.

"Included in the future developments are real-time collaboration, real-time design, real-time editing, and a desktop counterpart to Inspire," VanDen Heuvel said. "In the next release, INSPIRE will also be accessible on a multitude of handheld devices, such as Palm Pilots and cellular phones."

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Jason Stitt is a staff writer for the Wisconsin Technology Network and can be reached at jason@wistechnology.com. )

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