The PC is a patient tutor

The PC is a patient tutor

The market for software products with a training focus is growing alongside the home PC market. The subjects are as varied as the users: learning a language; how to cook; how to use a computer package or how to train your dog. As more people buy software for their children and their own use, the opportunities for resellers can only expand. Put this alongside the trend amongst home PC users to use software as a learning tool rather than books, or software along with books, and anyone can see that training products have a healthy future. ARN's Helen Cousens took a look at some of the software-based training products on the market.

We looked at a number of distributors, starting with The Image Depot, a specialised department within U.R.I. Printing. Set up five years ago, the Image Depot specialises in the production, packaging and distribution of diskette and CD-ROM-based products. Within Australia, the company is the distributor for several publishers of training software for the home market. These include AKORE, LASER, PRO-ONE, Arc-Media, SCOPS Software, Accent LanguageWare and the UK-based 10 out of 10 Educational Systems.

The software published by these companies is extensive, but all focus on providing some kind of education or training for a diverse age range.

Ron Feist, national sales manager for The Image Depot, emphasises that a major objective for the company is to "try to get and maintain the price-point at a level which is affordable for parents". This means that, while some software products are up around the $49 to $99 mark, most of the software is kept within the $29.95 price-point.

Feist contributes this growth to the development of the home PC market as a whole. He believes that the consumer is becoming more open to learning from a software package, and in many cases, finding that learning from the home computer is easier than learning from books. Feist predicts distributors and resellers can look forward to continued growth in sales of training software.

This is echoed by Bruce McCabe, PC market analyst at IDC: "Over the last few years both the home and small business have been the fastest growing segments of the PC market. And SOHO, spanning both of these segments, is growing as fast, if not faster."

While The Image Depot is sole distributor for its products in Australia, and handles distribution itself within NSW and Queensland, it has sub- distributors for the rest of the country. They are:

Victoria: Victorian Academy of Technologyand Creative Arts - (03) 9482 3400Western Australia: CBT - (09) 381 4503Tasmania: Awsome Software - (03) 6343 0111The Image Depot is actively looking for more resellers to increase the exposure of its products across the country.

Like a pair of old slippers

Another distributor seeking resellers is Morse Corporation. At PC97 in Sydney last month it released the Comfy Activity Center, which it describes as a "first of a kind combination of children's software and hardware available for children between the ages one to three".

The Comfy Activity Center consists of a "child-compatible" keyboard or "busy board" complete with an attached red plastic telephone handset that lets the child hear from the various Comfyland characters. Large, colourful buttons on a white plastic base encourage youngsters to push and pound.

The centre comes complete with two pieces of software. The First Step is targeted at children between one and two years, and teaches the principles of cause and effect. For example, if the child presses the button with the raincloud on it, rain will appear on the screen. The second piece of software is Feely's Birthday and is targeted for children between the ages two and six years. It is designed along the lines of a traditional adventure game.

Morse says that the Comfy Activity Center not only teaches young children how to interact with a computer, but through its six software games it introduces the concepts of cause and effect, colour, time, music, numbers and word pronunciation.

Managing director of Morse, Charles Assaf, says: "Comfy is the only product on the market for kids aged between one and three; almost everything is for three years or over."

The keyboard plugs into the computer's parallel port. Available now, the product will normally carry an RRP of $170, but a special offer until 31 April brings the RRP down to $119.

Home grown

Released in mid-1996, Webster's Complete PC Tutorial, Exploring the Internet, and Exploring Windows 95 are but a few of many software packages sold through resellers and aimed at teaching end users.

Exploring the Internet is a multimedia learning tool that teaches beginners how to use the Internet, and aims to expand intermediate users' existing knowledge. Webster's says Exploring the Internet is a reference and training tool for all Internet users. The multimedia package has a RRP of $29.95, and the hardback copy, titled Discover the Internet, retails for $34.95.

Exploring Windows 95 is a CD-ROM that introduces Windows 95 and shows users how to utilise its features. The RRP is $29.95, and the hardback alternative, titled Discover Windows, retails for $34.95.

Webster's Complete PC Tutorial includes the following titles on one CD-ROM: Exploring Windows 95, Exploring the Internet, and Exploring Works 4.0. The Exploring Series CDs incorporate sound and video clips as a demonstrating tool. This package has an RRP of $49.95.

Distributors for Webster's are Teco Australia and Scholastics.

For the bookworm

WoodsLane is an Australian distributor for many book titles aimed at the training market, whether it be training on computer software, business books, what to do in a job interview, or how to pick a good red wine.

The company is a distributor of IDG Books Worldwide, including the . . . For Dummies series. The Dummies collection is a well-known training series. Marketed as a "practical tool with all the value of a highly priced training course - at a fraction of the cost", the Dummies series come in book form, disc form, or both. The MORE . . . For Dummies series are hardcopy reference aids for the home, school or office.

WoodsLane also distributes training books for people seeking business knowledge. Titles include "How to avoid the 10 biggest homebuying traps", "Business China", "Target Marketing", a guide for small businesses, and the "Restaurant planning guide" for people looking to open their own restaurant.

A sharper image

The Image Depot is a distributor for a wide range of educational and training products.

Some of them are:

The Multimedia Language Tutor. Published by AKORE, these CD-ROMs have an RRP of between $49.95 and $59.95 and cover At Home French, German and Spanish, and Lingua Teach French, German, Italian and Spanish. The Image Depot is distributing a new range of language products from LASER, which includes Chinese, Cantonese, Japanese, and Russian.

SCOPS, Children's Edutainment. Priced at $24.95, the SCOPS range includes a Creative Adventure Series, Interaction Stories, and a Young Scientist Series.

10 out of 10 Educational Series. New in Australia, this UK-based publisher provides traditional educational software titles covering topics such as English, maths, algebra and spelling & punctuation. Special interest training programs such as First Aid, Football, Pet Massage, Fishing and Astronomy are also included in the series. The 10 out of 10 series all carry an RRP of $29.95.

The best-seller list

The following is a list of the top 10 selling Dummies titles for the month of February 1997 1. Windows 95 For Dummies 2. Internet For Dummies 3. Microsoft Office 97 For WindowsFor Dummies 4. Excel 97 For Windows For Dummies 5. Word 97 For Windows For Dummies 6. Access 97 For Windows For Dummies 7. Microsoft Outlook 97 For Dummies 8. Windows 3.11 For Dummies 9. Windows 95 For Dummies 10. Word For Windows 6 For DummiesList supplied by WoodsLane Pty Ltd

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