Distributor tackles US market

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Brisbane-based distributor Manaccom--via its worldwide agent Access International--is set to strike OEM agreements with major US PC manufacturers to pre-load on their machines PublishPDF, a PDF software package licensed by Australian startup Optomo.

PublishPDF, licensed from Romania by Aussie Derek Hayward,lets users save virtually any documents in PDF format and will compete head-to-head with Adobe's Acrobat PDF software. PDFs created with the software can be read by Acrobat Reader.

The plan is to strike OEM arrangements with US-based manufacturers, Dell Computer, HP and Packard Bell for the software in order to introduce it to the US market.

In the meantime, 18,000 units of the software will hit retail shelves in the US in September, according to James Mackay, business affairs manager at the distributor. However, he was unsure how long it would take for the potential OEM arrangements to be finalised.

Manaccom is also looking to strike an OEM deals for 10,000 units with a local PC builder. Its partner, Comet Software, is lobbying local manufacturers and Mackay expected a deal to be signed at the end of the month.

PublishPDF is already Manaccom's third highest selling product for the year, behind PC-Cillin and the company's own Popup Killer software title.

In March, Optomo's Hayward commissioned a group of four Romania programmers--led by Alex Marias--to develop the retail software package. It cost less than $50,000 to develop and Optomo has purchased the source code from the authors.

Two months later, it was released and already 1,200 copies of the Standard and Pro versions of the software have been sold through Manaccom's retail customer base, said Hayward. Manaccom is handling all retail and international distribution of the software on behalf of Hayward.

Hayward is also Queensland state manager for Force Technology International, a company which supplies mobile accessories to the telecommunications industry. “I needed to keep my brain active and saw the opportunity in the market. The software market isn't part of my background but Manaccom though it had legs and took it on. This is an extra curricular project for me,” he said.

He claimed that at around $550 (retail), Adobe's Acrobat is “out of the reach of many small to medium enterprises. The Standard version of PublishPDF costs $100 and with retail and OEM relationships in place, Hayward expects to sell over 200,000 units of the software in all forms (licence and OEM) by 30 June, 2004. If this happens and at $100 a pop (less for OEMs), the potential sales revenue could be up to $20 million in the first year. “How long is a piece of string,” said Hayward.

He said there are “a lot of people out there who don't use a registered copy of a PDF creator or they can't afford the $550 for Acrobat”.

He added that a lot of accountants and legal departments are moving to paperless offices and their only option is Acrobat. Some accountancy practices are already using the software, he said.

It is currently available in Romanian and English language versions. There are also “agents” evaluating the product in Japan and Germany so the export opportunities are quite large, he said.

Hayward said Marias had already been working on a similar program but adapted it into a shrink-wrapped product. He said there are a few similar programs online that aren't suitable for retail.

Hayward is also on the hunt for an investor that would take a share of the profits. “Having the extra cash flow would allow us to put more staff on,” he said.

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