Adobe, Quark and the cross-media conundrum

Summary:The publishing industry is in a curious situation right now: it knowswhere it wants to go--but it doesn't know how to get there.

COMMENTARY-- Where is cross media publishing going? At Seybold Boston, two major players in the publishing arena outlined their plans for the future of publishing--and their approaches differ considerably. A closer look at a market segment which is confused--and confusing.

By now it has become widely accepted that the publishing industry is heading for major changes. Indeed, the vision of "cross-media" or "media-independent" publishing has been around for a considerable time--so long, in fact, that talking about it has become somewhat vain.

The Seybold Seminars in Boston earlier this month were a good occasion to see how two of the major companies in the field envisage the future: Adobe proceeded to show a new installment of its ongoing "Network Publishing" initiative, announced last fall, while Quark announced new technology for collaborative publishing, dubbed the Active Publishing Server.

Who does what--and how?
Both companies ultimately pursue the same lofty goal: distributed, delocalized publishing, producing content for a variety of output channels. Their approach, however, differs quite significantly. Adobe is basically pitching the capacity to publish "anything anywhere," and that includes all sorts of content, traditional print output, as well as Web content and dynamic media and streaming video.

Quark, on the other hand, is showing the possibility to distribute the authoring process, basically to access XPress page layout and formatting capabilities through a browser interface, to create content for both the Web and print. In both cases, the announcements and demos were as much about laying the stakes on an emerging market, as they were about showing new technology.

So where are these companies going? With Network Publishing (a term Adobe would love for the whole industry to adopt) the company has basically delivered a grand vision of where it believes things are going. A sort of idealized blueprint for the future of publishing and content delivery, which will take many years to happen. Adobe knows of course that no single company will be able to control all the building blocks for that future, and has started at Seybold to show a few of the pieces the company will contribute: future versions of InDesign, Acrobat 5, XML support, tagged PDF amongst others.

Quark, on the other hand, is not talking about vision, but about technology. The Active Publishing Server which the company showed for the first time at a Seybold keynote, gives a glimpse at how Quark proposes to leverage its core technologies, and most prominently QuarkXPress, by allowing it to run in a distributed way. It will allow companies to create templates with the page layout program, and then to access these templates over the Web, modify them, paste content, create pages from a remote location, by channeling which aspect of a page the remote user will have access to. The Active Publishing Server will be tightly integrated with Quarks own QDMS asset management system. Quark says it aims the system as much at large corporations as traditional publishers. Interestingly, the technology could also be used in an ASP model--at the keynote, Quark CEO Fred Ebrahimi showed the french web-site Printalis.com allows users to build their own business cards and stationary from a web browser.

What is it all about?
The publishing industry is in a curious situation right now: it knows where it wants to go--but it doesn't know how to get there. Yes, we are all aware that publishing is not simply about building pages any more. Yes, we know that we need to be able to push content out to different channels, and we know that in order to do so we need to think differently about the content we produce. Fine--but where do we go from here?

For Adobe and Quark the situation looks significantly different. Adobe¹s immediate goal is to leverage existing and future authoring products, and to strengthen the position of PDF in the market on the electronic document side. Quark on the other hand owns the N°1 page layout program, and has spent several years to build a strategy to expand its reach. Today the company pushes this logic further, by outlining a way in which QuarkXPress functionality could be used in a distributed way. Quark CEO Fred Ebrahimi has stated repeatedly that Quark is becoming a client-server company, which sees its future as much outside of the traditional publishing market as within.

This leads to a completely different world view for both companies. Adobe knows that its main strength lies with selling software and perhaps in the future services such as Adobe Studio, which is still under development. The company has much more to gain from working well with the high-end system integrators than it has from trying to compete with them. Quark, on the other hand, is doing the opposite: it is working at becoming a systems company, a high-level technology provider which also happens to sell a page layout program.

And cross media publishing in all that?
To say that the market is confused is an understatement. Its not that the tools are missing--in fact there are too many of them (always a sure sign that a market is immature). There are truckloads of content management systems out there, and there are also a great number of editorial and workflow systems which offer some form of cross media functionality. But lets face it, for many publishers, that's a bit like saying you need to buy a boat because you want to cross a river. So where will the low-end cross media solution come from? There are an increasing number of vendors who offer "entry-level" solutions--although entry-level usually means "tens of thousands of dollars" instead of "millions of dollars." Very few of the companies offering such systems have sufficient presence in the market to leverage such a solution on a larger scale.

So who could provide such a solution? On the content management side, Macromedia could be one of them--but while the acquisition of Allaire has given the company foothold in the content management market, Macromedia has no inroads into the publishing market. Quark and Adobe, on the other hand, are strong on the publishing side of things, but lack the presence in content management. Unfortunately, true cross media publishing will require both.

The reality of the market is that no single company can provide all the answers any more. True cross media publishing is complex, and will remain so for some time to come. For publishers who can afford high-end solutions, there are a number of systems out there. For those who are waiting for a cheap turnkey solution from a big software company, they should harness themselves with patience.

Andreas Pfeiffer is an industry analyst and editor in chief of the Pfeiffer Report on Emerging Trends and Technologies. COMMENTARY-- Where is cross media publishing going? At Seybold Boston, two major players in the publishing arena outlined their plans for the future of publishing--and their approaches differ considerably. A closer look at a market segment which is confused--and confusing.

By now it has become widely accepted that the publishing industry is heading for major changes. Indeed, the vision of "cross-media" or "media-independent" publishing has been around for a considerable time--so long, in fact, that talking about it has become somewhat vain.

The Seybold Seminars in Boston earlier this month were a good occasion to see how two of the major companies in the field envisage the future: Adobe proceeded to show a new installment of its ongoing "Network Publishing" initiative, announced last fall, while Quark announced new technology for collaborative publishing, dubbed the Active Publishing Server.

Who does what--and how?
Both companies ultimately pursue the same lofty goal: distributed, delocalized publishing, producing content for a variety of output channels. Their approach, however, differs quite significantly. Adobe is basically pitching the capacity to publish "anything anywhere," and that includes all sorts of content, traditional print output, as well as Web content and dynamic media and streaming video.

Quark, on the other hand, is showing the possibility to distribute the authoring process, basically to access XPress page layout and formatting capabilities through a browser interface, to create content for both the Web and print. In both cases, the announcements and demos were as much about laying the stakes on an emerging market, as they were about showing new technology.

So where are these companies going? With Network Publishing (a term Adobe would love for the whole industry to adopt) the company has basically delivered a grand vision of where it believes things are going. A sort of idealized blueprint for the future of publishing and content delivery, which will take many years to happen. Adobe knows of course that no single company will be able to control all the building blocks for that future, and has started at Seybold to show a few of the pieces the company will contribute: future versions of InDesign, Acrobat 5, XML support, tagged PDF amongst others.

Quark, on the other hand, is not talking about vision, but about technology. The Active Publishing Server which the company showed for the first time at a Seybold keynote, gives a glimpse at how Quark proposes to leverage its core technologies, and most prominently QuarkXPress, by allowing it to run in a distributed way. It will allow companies to create templates with the page layout program, and then to access these templates over the Web, modify them, paste content, create pages from a remote location, by channeling which aspect of a page the remote user will have access to. The Active Publishing Server will be tightly integrated with Quarks own QDMS asset management system. Quark says it aims the system as much at large corporations as traditional publishers. Interestingly, the technology could also be used in an ASP model--at the keynote, Quark CEO Fred Ebrahimi showed the french web-site Printalis.com allows users to build their own business cards and stationary from a web browser.

What is it all about?
The publishing industry is in a curious situation right now: it knows where it wants to go--but it doesn't know how to get there. Yes, we are all aware that publishing is not simply about building pages any more. Yes, we know that we need to be able to push content out to different channels, and we know that in order to do so we need to think differently about the content we produce. Fine--but where do we go from here?

For Adobe and Quark the situation looks significantly different. Adobe¹s immediate goal is to leverage existing and future authoring products, and to strengthen the position of PDF in the market on the electronic document side. Quark on the other hand owns the N°1 page layout program, and has spent several years to build a strategy to expand its reach. Today the company pushes this logic further, by outlining a way in which QuarkXPress functionality could be used in a distributed way. Quark CEO Fred Ebrahimi has stated repeatedly that Quark is becoming a client-server company, which sees its future as much outside of the traditional publishing market as within.

This leads to a completely different world view for both companies. Adobe knows that its main strength lies with selling software and perhaps in the future services such as Adobe Studio, which is still under development. The company has much more to gain from working well with the high-end system integrators than it has from trying to compete with them. Quark, on the other hand, is doing the opposite: it is working at becoming a systems company, a high-level technology provider which also happens to sell a page layout program.

And cross media publishing in all that?
To say that the market is confused is an understatement. Its not that the tools are missing--in fact there are too many of them (always a sure sign that a market is immature). There are truckloads of content management systems out there, and there are also a great number of editorial and workflow systems which offer some form of cross media functionality. But lets face it, for many publishers, that's a bit like saying you need to buy a boat because you want to cross a river. So where will the low-end cross media solution come from? There are an increasing number of vendors who offer "entry-level" solutions--although entry-level usually means "tens of thousands of dollars" instead of "millions of dollars." Very few of the companies offering such systems have sufficient presence in the market to leverage such a solution on a larger scale.

So who could provide such a solution? On the content management side, Macromedia could be one of them--but while the acquisition of Allaire has given the company foothold in the content management market, Macromedia has no inroads into the publishing market. Quark and Adobe, on the other hand, are strong on the publishing side of things, but lack the presence in content management. Unfortunately, true cross media publishing will require both.

The reality of the market is that no single company can provide all the answers any more. True cross media publishing is complex, and will remain so for some time to come. For publishers who can afford high-end solutions, there are a number of systems out there. For those who are waiting for a cheap turnkey solution from a big software company, they should harness themselves with patience.

Andreas Pfeiffer is an industry analyst and editor in chief of the Pfeiffer Report on Emerging Trends and Technologies.

Topics: Browser, Software

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