Adobe Drives Another Stake Through the Heart of Print

January 17, 2010

No press release was issued by Adobe, but a few press outlets caught the story. I found it the other day in PrintAction‘s weekly enewsletter. Clive Chan, PrintAction‘s associate editor, tells me that he picked up the story from Macworld UK.

Further searching brings me to a blog entry from January 4, 2010 by the excellent journalist Cary Sherburne at PrintCEO.com. She had received notification from Adobe’s PR agency of the news, and it’s from her report that emerges the obsequious statement, “the print segment continues to be important (to Adobe).” Yes, and what a great way to share the love.

Adobe has no release on its site, but if you go to the Print Service Provider page on Adobe.com, you’ll be tersely informed: “The Adobe Partner Connection Print Service Provider Program has been discontinued. If you have any questions, please contact the Partner Programs Helpdesk (log-in required).”

Sherburne’s column produced 18 comments. Several were of the “oh well” variety, but more typical is:

The discontinuing of the program is a trend in marginalizing print. They dropped the printed Adobe Magazine, brought it back for a short term in electronic form. That too is gone. Seminars at trade shows, especially when new software was rolled out, was eliminated well before Seybold folded. The ASP logo gave the potential client some assurance of competence.

And:

For Adobe to do this now, in this economy, is a stab in the back, since it was really the printing industry (that) helped get Adobe on the map. If it wasn’t for printers, graphic artists and prepress, Adobe wouldn’t be where it is today. So thanks Adobe for shooting us when we are down….This is the thanks we get for supporting Adobe all these years.

And finally:

I’m shocked to have to find out about it online as opposed to a letter from Adobe to its members. Is our loyalty of so little importance that we don’t even rate that? I have personally pushed Adobe InDesign over QuarkXPress to my customers for years in part because I felt Adobe was sensitive to the needs of print providers while Quark took a ‘here it is take it or leave it’ attitude….Watch out Adobe, snubbing customer loyalty is how Quark lost the top spot!

That last comment is I believe apropos and reveals what I can only imagine is Adobe’s thinking:

1. Adobe InDesign has essentially vanquished QuarkPress. Yes, there are quite a few legacy QuarkXPress customers, but Adobe wins the vast majority of new installations.

2. Print is an ever-declining source of revenue for Adobe, while as I’ve often noted, Adobe has a very clear strategy for moving forward on the web. No, Adobe is not abandoning print, it has merely dropped quite a few rungs down the ladder in Adobe’s list of priorities.

3. Don’t cry for me, print! I don’t blame Adobe for recognizing the reality of print’s rapid decline and placing its corporate priorities where it must. I just wish it would indeed recognize in some tangible way that these folks that it is tossing overboard did indeed help to launch the company into the enormous success that it has become. Of course eventually we have to pull the patient off life-support, but it can be done with dignity.

4. Adobe’s claim that membership was dropping and the cost to Adobe was becoming too high somehow doesn’t ring properly for a profitable $5 billion company that does manage to offer numerous other support programs, many directed towards web-related technologies (although there is a support program for the multiple media Creative Suite).

Enough of this. I rest my case.

Update: On January 20th Quark very wisely stepped into the breach, announcing,  “In continued support of the print community, Quark announced today special offers that allow eligible printers to join Quark output provider programs at no cost. Adobe Service Network (ASN) members, current QuarkAlliance members, and printers interested in Quark Promote are invited to take advantage of complimentary QuarkAlliance and Quark Promote memberships. Membership benefits can include priority technical support, a free copy of QuarkXPress 8, increased market visibility, and potential revenue opportunities….”

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Quark Decides It’s Better to Join ‘Em Than Beat Them

October 27, 2008

Today Quark made a significant announcement:

“…Quark announced groundbreaking innovation in automated workflow publishing by extending the capabilities of Quark Publishing System 8 (QPS 8) to include support for both QuarkXPress and Adobe InDesign. QPS users now have the flexibility to use QuarkXPress with QuarkCopyDesk and Adobe InDesign with Adobe InCopy at the component level in a single workflow system. The capability to use both — or either — graphic design and page-layout program with QPS enables customers to streamline their publishing process to save time and reduce administration, training, and hardware costs.

“…We surveyed magazine and newspaper publishers, advertising agencies, and marketing groups and asked them what their most significant needs are for collaborative publishing today, said Linda Chase, General Manager for Quark Publishing System.The majority of respondents indicated they need to support both QuarkXPress and Adobe InDesign in their environments and would welcome a workflow system that does not dictate which page-layout and design application they use.

“Now, with QPS XTensions for Adobe InDesign, a customer’s choice for QPS gives them the flexibility to use both QuarkXPress and InDesign in one workflow system.”

As everyone who has been following the QuarkXPress versus Adobe InDesign battle knows, Quark spent probably too long on the high ground, assuming or deluding itself into a continued belief that it could actually win the battle. Over the last two releases of QuarkXPress the company has been seeking to essentially emulate the approach in Adobe’s Creative Suite, making it possible for many of its customers to incorporate Adobe technologies directly into Quark technologies, including Photoshop, Illustrator and Flash. And now the flagship product itself!

There is much speculation over how much market share Quark has lost during this protracted battle. Most analysts I speak to believe it is substantial, but haven’t got any numbers. A Google search provides no useful current data. I wrote today to press representatives at each company to see what their public position was on the subject.

Adobe’s response was terse: “Unfortunately, Adobe does not provide market share numbers.”

Quark’s was verbose, but not more informative: “Quark is committed to delivering continued innovation in desktop publishing software, and QuarkXPress 8 clearly shows this. It has been incredibly well received in numerous reviews and by customers, and we believe that healthy competition will continue to drive even more innovation to help designers push their creativity further.

“What’s more, not only have we listened and responded to customers who want to use both leading page-layout applications, Quark is helping customers output and deliver creative content to other channels through Quark Dynamic Publishing Solution, raising the bar for publishing solutions.”

I believe that Quark is following the correct approach by seeking to join ’em. Let’s see what Adobe does next.

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A Major Announcment From Quark

March 6, 2008

Check out the new section of the Quark Web site on what they’re calling the “Quark Dynamic Publishing Solution.” (1-1-2011: No longer there. Very dynamic indeed.) Dynamic Publishing is something altogether new for Quark, and reflects, I think, the relatively recent infusion of a host of senior staff from the old Arbortext (now owned by PTC).

Arbortext offered what was called an “enterprise-class” high-end XML-based publishing system. It cost plenty, and was strictly directed at the largest publishing organizations that could consider spending $1 million to get “mission-critical” information into print (and on the Web). Great technology, but very limited because of price and complexity. How do you take the best of the concepts from a high-end system like Arbortext’s and bring those into the world of mere mortals? When you mix the culture of a group from Arbortext with a consumer-oriented off-the-shelf software company like Quark interesting things are bound to emerge. They could be calamitous; they could be fascinating.

Quark’s Dynamic Publishing is fascinating to me for several reasons. First, it recognizes (finally) that print is no longer the sheriff in this town — the Web shot the sheriff. Second, it fully embraces that publishing is a content-centric endeavor, and the particular output medium is secondary to the content (for traditional publishers — Facebook is another story!). Of great importance in this announcement is that Quark has become the first big-time software publisher that appears to appreciate that the XML in Office 2007 can and should be fully exploited in contemporary publishing workflows.

Finally the technology acknowledges that the future of authoring is the assembly of what I call RCOs (reusable content objects — Quark calls them “content components”). I define RCOs as “the smallest content blocks which have discernible meaning.” These blocks have to be assembled in very different ways depending on the output medium, and few cross-media publishing systems appear to have a clue about how important this has become to authoring.

OK, Quark Dynamic Publishing is just an announcement so far, but it’s got more good ideas built into it than anything I’ve heard about in months.

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