A Year Ago Today: Q&A: Adobe's Mitchell on PostScript 3

This story was first published September 24, 1996

In the week following the announcement of PostScript Level 3, PCDN spoke to Ian Mitchell, Adobe's European OEM business manager, about page description languages (PDLs), the Web, and Hewlett-Packard's (HP) decision to forsake the standard.

PCDN: What's a capsule summary of PostScript Level 3? It's being painted as `PostScript for the Web'. Is that right?

The whole thing is it brings freer exchange of information between PDF and PostScript so you can print any digital document without losing look and feel. It's a new paradigm of distribute-and-print, rather than print-and-distribute. It's a complete democracy of where you print. We do it all so users don't have to worry about it. For example, in the office where you have a PostScript Level 2 printer you would push a PostScript file byte by byte so it would be slow. PDF is structured in much more intelligent way so that's not necessary.

What's the delivery plan?

It was a mistake to introduce [PostScript] Level 2 and leave it a year before products and longer for drivers. Drivers will be available immediately with the release of Level 3. Level 3 will be much more of an architecture. Level 2 was a new Red Book. We'll work closely with Microsoft, Apple and others to bring a new component system into place.

When can we expect the first Level 3-based products?

The first products will ship in the third quarter of 1997. We're announcing now because we want ISVs to become aware of it although we'll openly publish very little until the first products appear.

How much will HP's decision not to use PostScript in the future hurt you?

It's a double-edged sword. HP's defection isn't a sign that they don't [like Adobe technology]. To Adobe, it's a revenue and PR loss but it's a recognition that HP sees us as too dominant. On the other hand it allows us to be far more aggressive in positioning ourselves against PCL, which we haven't been able to do in the past. HP hasn't abandoned us; it's only the laser printer side.

But I think they've shot themselves in the foot. If you look at the way printing is going, it's all towards colour and speed. To add the same functionality as PostScript to PCL, you'll have to add the same cost. PostScript printers are expensive because you need more RAM, more ROM, more processing, and there's a little bit of market inflation because it's the high-end. The fee we charge is purely based on the cost of the device. You pay a percentage the way CBS pays Sheena Easton a percentage.

How does the arrival of Level 3 affect positioning of Adobe's other PDL products?

PrintGear is far cheaper. It's at the bottom for Windows and Macintosh and it brings all the benefits of GDI but its shareable and faster. It's cheaper than a PCL printer. The next step is Personal PostScript, and the best is Level 3.

What about the future?

The Web will change everyone's lives and we think we have the technology to [help with] that. HTML is always going to be there. PDF is getting stronger and stronger but it's probably never going to be ubiquitous. We're working with Microsoft, Apple and several others on OpenType to make a new font standard. We have an ongoing dialogue with Hewlett-Packard and everybody else who's important. We feel we're in a pretty good position.