Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT) has launched the second version of its Expression Studio suite of products which target novice and professional designers and developers as well as its growing channel partner base.
The first version of Expression Studio was released over a year ago during Microsoft’s annual MIX event. Rini Gahir, senior product manager of developer tools for Microsoft Canada, said the initial release of Expression Studio was to primarily raise awareness and encourage early end-user and partner adoption of the products to showcase how they work together with Silverlight, a Web browser plug-in that supports rich Internet applications (RIAs) and the .NET framework. Expression Studio 2 is set for worldwide release June 2.
The Expression Studio 2 family of tools is made up of five products which include, Expression Web 2, Expression Blend 2, an interactive design tool, Expression Design 2, a graphic design tool, Expression Media 2, a digital asset management tool, Expression Encoder 2, an audio and video conversion tool, and Visual Studio Standard 2008. With Expression Studio, Gahir said Microsoft has introduced a product that helps bridge the workflow gap between designers and developers.
“It’s all about the user experience behind workflow,” Gahir said.
Usually the designer works on their own with their own tools and the developers also do their own thing, and Gahir said that isolation creates a disconnect.
“With Expression Studio, we’re bridging that gap with the designer and developer so the design of the application is not compromised and the initial design concept is still there,” he said.
Expression Studio, Gahir says, is an integrated platform that sits on top of the Microsoft stack to improve business productivity and workflow. With the suite, he said files can now be shared between designers and developers without risking compromising any project design elements along the way.
Mano Kulasingam, vice-president of professional services at Mississauga, Ont.-based Digiflare, a Web design and development company and interactive agency, said working with Expression Studio has been very productive for his company.
“It has allowed the designers and developers to be able to collaborate seamlessly,” he said. “With 2.0, it’s a straightforward work tool that we’ve found to be very productive.”
Similar to its current Microsoft Developer Network subscription, Gahir said Microsoft has also created an Expression Professional subscription for designers.
“Expression Professional subscription is new,” Gahir said. “It’s a set of tools and support and everything else the designer audience may need when they’re using Expression.”
While Gahir said Microsoft’s goal with Expression Studio 2 is to attract its existing partner base that has worked with the initial release of the suite last year; he said the company also expects to attract new partners to also work with version 2.
“It’s a good opportunity for partners because it touches on professional designers, novice Web developers, non-developers and even consumers,” Gahir said. “We’re seeing a lot of interest and adoption continues to grow. Version 2 is all about making the concepts easier to use, more powerful, and more visually compelling.”
Training for Expression Studio 2 will take the form of online training to take place over the next six to nine months, Gahir said.
Expression Studio 2 can be purchased as a whole solution or certain products from the suite can also be purchased individually. The price for the Expression Studio suite is $799.95, Expression Web is $409, Expression Blend is $699.95, Expression Media is $269.95 and Expression Encoder is $269.95.
“Expression Studio is a very value-priced solution set,” Gahir said. “At $800, you get all five products, so pricing is not a big barrier for partners. Partners can then position the toolset and their services around building a complete solution for their customers.”