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Six Apart Update: Movable Type's Future Lies in Japan

Following the recent acquisition of Six Apart many speculated — often pessimistically — about the future of the once ground-breaking Movable Type (MT) software. We sat down with the current MT product manager for a chat about the details. Here's what we learned.

After last week's announcement that blog software maker Six Apart (news, site) had been acquired by VideoEgg, many people wondered about the future of Movable Type, the Web CMS and blogging software that started it all for the company.

Curiosities were especially piqued given that the acquisition announcement made scant mention of Movable Type, and the software didn't seem to have an obvious place in the strategy and direction of the new company (Six Apart and VideoEgg are being merged into a new entity called SAY Media).

Since then we've been able to sit down with Jun Kaneko, Six Apart's current Product and Community Manager for Movable Type. Due to unfortunate timing he was on vacation at the time the acquisition news broke, leaving him unable to reply to the many doubting voices. He had quite a different picture to paint about the future of MT once we had a chance to speak.

A Vibrant Ecosystem in Japan

Over the past years, a thriving ecosystem of users, developers and partners developed around Movable Type in Japan. So it was no wonder the main development efforts around the software were moved to the Tokyo office of Six Apart KK — the Japanese subsidiary of Six Apart — more than a year ago. Due to the language barrier however, very little of the activity in the Japanese ecosystem — other than the direct developments on Movable type — ever made it out into the wider world.

The Japanese Movable Type community boasts hundreds of integration partners, several major enterprise-level applications built on top of Movable Type and dozens of smaller ones. Six books written by community members are in print about Movable Type 5 alone.

At the heart of it all, a small dozen engineers at Six Apart KK (and a few elsewhere) have been maintaining, supporting and developing the core Movable Type application.

Product Manager Jun Kaneko made the point that the Movable Type Japanese business was healthy. MT license sales make up a substantial part of the revenue for Six Apart KK.  Not only are there direct sales, but affiliate/partnership sales as well. 

Hundreds of integrators reportedly offer MT to their clients, and several partners offer enterprise-grade applications built on top of MT, along with dozens of smaller applications from yet other partners.

Japanese Subsidiary to Carry the MT Torch

According to Kaneko, after the merger Six Apart KK will remain a fully owned subsidiary of SAY Media, Ltd. and will take full responsibility for all worldwide Movable Type activity. The subsidiary will also keep the "Six Apart" name, for the time being.

This is a big step for Six Apart KK: it will now drive support, distribution and communication about the product in other parts of the world as well, broadening its focus from just the Japanese market.

Far from being a fading product, in the eyes of Jun, MT is ascendant once again. He stated that one of the goals of Six Apart KK is to channel some of the energy of the Japanese MT community into the wider user base and to get more interaction going, leading to a better and stronger Movable Type for everyone.

In the short term Jun says that Six Apart KK are planning a beta release of Movable Type 5.1 early this winter, and that an update to the 4.x branch is also in the works.

The future of Movable Type may very well be in Japan, but if Jun gets his way, the global community will participate in what he sees as the bright future for MT. Stay tuned here.

About the Author

Maarten Schenk is an ex-Six Apart employee who runs his own Movable Type services company in Belgium. He blogs about Movable Type at www.movabletips.com.

 
 
 
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