Software with an attitude.
* SOFTWARE WITH AN ATTITUDE At first glance, Amaze Inc. looks like a company that's destined for almost instant Chapter XI status. Amaze's flagship product is a $69.95 personal calendar manager that competes in a category that is both overcrowded and under-populated with any really successful titles. Amaze doesn't claim to have invented any dazzling new productivity features, and its technology is mundane; moreover, the company's founders expect to make a quick killing in the reseller channel (where they've already irritated dealers by offering smaller-than-usual discounts). So why is Amaze likely to become one of the year's hottest startups? Well, a large part of the answer is a licensing deal the company negotiated with Far Side cartoonist Gary Larson, who contributed a year's worth of zany line drawings and random animation events (including a meteor that plunges through the screen and a flock of penguins on an ice floe). Amaze says Larson is the single best-selling calendar cartoonist in the world; the print versions of his Far Side calendars currently sell four million copies a year. It's hard to translate that kind of cult following into software sales, but our guess is that Amaze's electronic Far Side calendar may top 300,000 copies in the next six months. But Amaze's founders aren't just trading on Larson's cult following. In a broader sense, they've rediscovered the personal computer--a machine that is most interesting and compelling when it embodies a user's perspective of the world. Amaze's Far Side calendar isn't just a productivity tool that organizes data for anonymous robots: Rather,, the calendar implies that its users are real people who appreciate a touch of whimsy and who enjoy embellishing their work environments. This stuff really matters: Witness the proliferation of flying-toaster screen savers and customized Windows wallpaper patterns. Probably one reason for the early success of the Macintosh was its customizable desktop, the curious beeps and burps that could be substituted for system-level alerts, and the whimsical icons and messages that constantly remind users that Apple thinks of them (or used to think of them) as something more than biological appendages to a mainframe environment. If there's a lesson here, it isn't that the way to create a better spreadsheet is to hire Woody Allen to write the help system. Sometimes "personal" applications are simply software products that are flexible, friendly, and engaging. In a sense, all software reveals something about the personality and values of its developers. Amaze is clearly a company run by enthusiastic, fresh-thinking people (tongue in cheek, Gary Larson says he decided to work with the company because its founders "seemed to have an uncanny resemblance to some of the characters I draw")--and it's no accident that their software mirrors those qualities. The Far Side Computer Calendar, $69.95; Amaze Inc., 11810 115th Ave. NE, Kirkland, Wash. 98034; 206/820-7007.
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|Title Annotation:||Amaze Inc. introduces the Far Side Computer Calendar|
|Date:||Sep 24, 1991|
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