Forms vendor gives away user licenses

JetForm Corp. plans to announce this week that it will provide World Wide Web-based form-filler software free to the federal government. The software is from JetForm's FormFlow 99 package and will enable agencies to comply with a new law that requires they let citizens fill out and sign forms online.

The step is a departure from the pricing model used by electronic forms vendors, including Ottawa, Ontario-based JetForm, under which companies sell licenses based on how many people will be using the forms. Agencies that do not already use JetForm software would have to purchase FormFlow Designer, the form-creation module in the package, to take advantage of the deal.

Lynne Boyd, senior vice president for government operations with JetForm, said that after backing passage of the Government Paperwork Elimination Act last fall, the company "looked hard at what we could do to help it take off very quickly" and decided the cost to agencies of paying for each citizen who used a federal form "could be prohibitive."

Boyd said the company will be able to profit by selling agencies complete solutions that integrate the electronic forms with back-end databases and automated workflow systems for processing the data that people submit. To make it easier for the public to use the forms, JetForm has engineered a new version of the filler product, called FormFlow 99 Citizen-Use Web Forms, that eliminates the need for users to run a plug-in from their Web browsers.

"It really boils down to mindshare," said Steve Weissman, president of Kinetic Information, a Waltham, Mass., market research firm.

Exactly how much revenue forms vendors get from per-user licenses is not clear, but JetForm could afford to give up some income in a bid for more federal market share, he said. The company reported $77.7 million in revenue in its fiscal year ending April 30, 1998.

Although Jetform apparently is the first electronic forms vendor to offer its client software for free, other companies have pricing schemes that derive more revenue from server products and integration services.

For example, UWI.Com, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, sells some of its software on a per-form basis, rather than licensing the software based on how many people would use the forms.

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