Punch Software is a No. 1 hit / KU on Ice

Lawrence,KS (10-01-2001)

From Kansas City Star
By David Hayes

Amid concerns about terrorism and economic recession, there is some good news out there.

In Kansas City, North, Punch Software has made the list of the nation's fastest-growing software companies for the third straight year. The news came as the company learned its home and landscape planning software is No. 1 in the United States.

And in Lawrence, the Information and Telecommunications Technology Center at the University of Kansas has received an $8.7 million grant to develop a system to find out why the sea level is slowly rising. It is the largest research grant yet for the center.

Punch on top

Punch Software continues to beat the competition in the home and landscape design software markets.

Punch's Master Landscape & Home Design, which hit stores in June, led the landscape design software market in August, according to figures from NPD Intelect, a market research firm. Punch's software outsold similar products from large software companies such as Learning Co., Activision and Vivendi Universal Publishing.

"We thought we could win in that market, but we didn't think we could do it that fast," Punch's president, Pete Pierce, said.

At the same time, five of the company's home design products dominated the home design software market. Sales of Punch products accounted for 54 percent of the market in August.

Those kinds of numbers put Punch at No. 10 on the list of the fastest-growing consumer software companies in the United States. NPD Intellect's figures showed that Punch had a 53.5 percent growth rate in the first six months of the year, outpacing such giants as Computer Associates, Symantec, Intuit and Microsoft.

Not bad for a company with 10 full-time employees. Pierce said he expected the company, which had about $12 million in sales last year, to hit $16 million this year.

"We are very excited that the recent market statistics have confirmed our dominant position," Pierce said. "We have become an undeniable force in the overall consumer software publishing market."

Pierce said the second half of the year could be even better than the first.

Punch will launch a new product later this month, combining and adding features to several of its existing products. Punch Professional Home Design Platinum also will break the $100 price barrier, retailing for $129.

And its flagship product will go on sale at Wal-Mart and Target stores this month. Punch has produced a 30-second TV demo that will be shown in Wal-Mart stores nationwide. It will demonstrate the company's 5 in 1 Home Design software.

"That's when my parents will know we have a real company, when they can go into a Wal-Mart and see it," Pierce said.

KU on ice

The news was just as positive in Lawrence.

KU last week learned it had won a hotly contested National Science Foundation grant. The foundation awarded 309 grants from more than 2,000 applications. Only eight of the grants exceeded $5 million, however, putting KU in an elite group that included the University of California-Berkeley and Pittsburgh's Carnegie Mellon University.

KU scientists will develop a new radar system that will be mounted on robotic vehicles and used in Greenland and Antarctica to study the ice sheet, said Prasad Gogineni, principal investigator on the project and a KU professor of engineering and computer science.

The foundation is financing the majority of the grant, with additional money from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the university and the Kansas Technology Enterprise Corp.

"This grant demonstrates clearly that Prasad and his group's work is internationally recognized for its excellence," KU Chancellor Robert Hemenway said. "It proves once again that KU faculty are competitive winners on a world stage."

For years, KU researchers have used radar mounted on NASA planes to study the ice sheet.

The new radar system will measure the thickness and layering of the ice and the conditions of the bed below the ice, giving scientists a two-dimensional view of the ice sheet. The KU team will develop new radar sensors that can measure through five or more kilometers of ice.

"The results from this project will help us refine our understanding of the Antarctic ice sheet and how it responds to changes in the climate," said Julie Palais, program manager of the Antarctic Glaciology Program at the foundation's Office of Polar Programs.

That data will help scientists determine why the world sea level has risen for the last century.

"A major program objective at NASA is understanding changes in the mass of the Earth's ice cover and their potential effects on sea level rise," said Waleed Abdalati, manager of the Polar Program at NASA. "Since the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets represent a major reservoir of ice (equivalent to about 70 meters of sea level), these areas are of particular interest."

Other members of the KU team are Arvin Agah, electrical engineering and computer science; Chris Allen, electrical engineering and computer science; David Braaten, physics and astronomy; Victor Frost, electrical engineering and computer science; Glenn Prescott, electrical engineering and computer science; and Costas Tsatsoulis, electrical engineering and computer science.

The announcement was made last week in Washington during a session of the President's Information Technology Advisory Committee.

For more information, contact ITTC.

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Partner with ITTC

The Information and Telecommunication Technology Center at the University of Kansas has developed several assistance policies that enhance interactions between the Center and local, Kansas, or national companies. 

ITTC assistance includes initial free consulting (normally one to five hours). If additional support is needed, ITTC will offer one of the following approaches: 

Sponsored Research Agreement

Individuals and organizations can enter into agreements with KUCR/ITTC and provide funds for sponsored research to be performed at ITTC with the assistance of faculty, staff and students.

Licensing and Royalty/Equity Agreement

An ITTC goal is the development of investment-grade technologies for transfer to, and marketing by, local, Kansas, and national businesses. To enhance this process, the Center has developed flexible policies that allow for licensing, royalty, and equity arrangements to meet both the needs of ITTC and the company.

Commercialization Development

Companies with a technology need that can be satisfied with ITTC's resources can look to us for assistance. We can develop a relationship with interested partners that will provide for the development of a technology suited for commercialization.

ITTC Resource Access

ITTC resources, including computers and software systems, may be made available to Kansas companies in accordance with the Center's mission and applicable Regents and University policies.

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