NetStudio Offers Graphics Software for Businesspersons

A startup company with close ties to Microsoft Corp. thinks it has a way around the corporate Internet/intranet site graphics blahs.

NetStudio Corp. (Berkeley, Calif., www.netstudio.com) has released the beta version of NetStudio 1.0, a graphics creation tool designed for people without formal art training. A final version is expected to be available this month.

"Creating the graphics is a pain today," says Manish Vij, president and CEO of NetStudio and a former program manager in the Microsoft Office group. "People are spending a third to half of their time on graphics."

A lot of the people creating sites for companies are in sales, marketing or human relations, and few of them went to art school. "This is not targeted at artists," Vij says.

The software allows users to mix colors, fonts, effects and layout, and helps users create buttons, navigation bars, fancy text, banners, photographs, backgrounds and shapes. The program is integrated with Microsoft FrontPage, and the interface is very similar to Microsoft Office products such as Word, PowerPoint and Excel.

Analyst Ron Rappaport with Zona Research Inc. (Redwood City, Calif., www.zonaresearch.com), says the product is probably a year or 2 ahead of its market. "The level of creativity of office users is increasing as they start to realize that the information that they create and disseminate is going to be posted on an intranet or even out on the Internet," Rappaport says.

Should the market develop, companies such as Adobe Systems Inc. (San Jose, Calif., www.adobe.com), Corel Corp. (Ottawa, www.corel.com) and Microsoft may tailor versions of their more complicated graphic-design software to business users, Rappaport says. For now, he observes, NetStudio is the only company with such a product.

One of the beta testers, Carolina Lau, is a financial analyst who handles the corporate intranet for the San Francisco office of Miami-based Vestrust Securities L.P. "I tried to use some of the other graphic programs that were out there," says Lau, adding that she gave up because the software was too complicated. "I said, ‘Our page will be plain until I get a better product.’" Within minutes of downloading the beta version of NetStudio, Lau says, she was immediately able to take an image of her company’s logo, shade it green and manipulate the appearance of text on the page.

"It’s incredibly easy to use," says Lau, who was already familiar with Microsoft Office tools. "It works basically the way [Office tools] do. It’s very intuitive to use; you don’t really need a manual."