In our series about screenwriting software, the people behind some of the leading titles contribute to this blog.
Our guest this week is Eric McDonald, CEO of Zhura.com.
While screenwriting is rarely credited as a driver of new technology, it certainly benefits from technical innovation. Screenwriters have enjoyed continuous improvement in the tools that allow them to work more efficiently, from the typewriter to personal computers to niche word processors.
A new wave of technology is improving things again, fueled by distributed computing and ubiquitous Internet connectivity.
With the rapid proliferation and accessibility of the Internet, software providers are changing the paradigm in terms of how they develop and offer their products. Rather than sell (or rather: license) you a piece of software that you install on one or two computers, they create software that runs completely online, which you access on an as-needed bases.
Think of software as gym equipment. As a health enthusiast, you could go out and purchase the best equipment available for use in your home. If you are disciplined, you will use it for an hour or so every day. Contrast that with getting a gym membership: no lump sum payment, no equipment maintenance, cost of equipment is spread among users, and an opportunity to meet people with similar interests. Success for a gym relies on providing a quality service to a motivated group who has the ability to get to their facility.
If you access your messages through Gmail or Yahoo, or you use Facebook, Bebo, Flickr, or eBay, you are using SaaS. Ever thought about the fact that you have never needed to “upgrade” Wikipedia? It’s just out there, always up-to-date and available when you need it.
Software manufacturers are well aware of the benefits that a SaaS platform provides their business:
Cost effectively goes to $0
Everyone gets updated code automatically, completely controlled by the manufacturer
None (how many people share your gmail password?)
Instead of sending their customers away to work in solitude, customers visit a common web location each time they use the software
New features that are impossible on a desktop architecture can be provided.
Flexibility in pricing on an as-used or subscription-based model
While none of the traditional screenwriting software providers currently offer products that run online, several new companies provide solutions that are just a mouse click away. Each of these sport slightly different features and interfaces, so that the consumer can select the one that best meets their needs and goals. Early to market were Plotbot.com and Scriptbuddy.com, which provide basic industry-standard formatting.
More recent alternatives include Scripped.com and Zhura.com, both released in 2007. Both provide the familiar “tab” and “enter” keystroke shortcuts, and import/export from popular off-the-shelf software. Zhura has also added community features and the ability to collaborate in real time.
Security is always a concern when working online. Zhura, as well as other SaaS companies, believe that the overall security of an online solution is unmatched by desktop solutions.
Statistics show that one out of five hard drives will crash in their lifetime. We’ve heard horror stories of people who have lost everything on their hard drive, only salvaging files that they had at some point sent through email, since they could log on to re-download. Guess what, that email program is SaaS, with online storage.
Statistics on stolen laptops are staggering – 2000 are stolen daily in the United States. It takes far less sophistication to grab someone’s laptop from a coffee shop than it does to crack into your online bank account (SaaS) service. Online security, even more so than convenience and features, may be the most compelling reason for a transition to SaaS.
Internet data solutions are so plentiful and cheap, companies now routinely run their data centers on multiple, redundant servers, and perform daily backups.
There is an exciting new generation of software being deployed over the Internet. It requires no installation, no upfront cost, no maintenance, and enables features that were unheard of as little as three years ago. As these solutions find their way into specific areas such as screenwriting, they offer compelling and exciting new opportunities for consumers.
Unfortunately, they only make your screenwriting experience simpler, you still have to write the story!
– Eric MacDonald,
President and CEO of Zhura Corporation, Boston, Mass.
Karel Segers wrote his first produced screenplay at age 17. Today he is a story analyst with experience in acquisition, development and production. He has trained students worldwide, and worked with half a dozen Academy Award nominees. Karel speaks more European languages than you have fingers on your left hand, which he is still trying to find a use for in his hometown of Sydney, Australia. The languages, not the fingers.