Quark faces up to its mistakes

As it launches XPress 7 in Europe, Quark's management is facing up to customers' criticisms and admitting they have been in their 'own little world' for too long
Written by Colin Barker, Contributor

As it gears up to try to retake market share lost to rival Adobe, Quark has admitted that previous mistakes have hurt the company.

At the launch of XPress 7 in Europe on Friday, Quark announced a simpler pricing structure, the return of printed manuals and "160 new features", including a chat facility and a "completely re-written" graphics engine. But while the company said the much-anticipated version of XPress 7 for Intel Macs was coming "soon", a firm launch date was not available.

Matthew Wallis, vice-president for sales and marketing in Europe, admitted that "for a while" the company had not been attentive enough, and had operated with only a small European sales and support structure, running everything from the US. "We had been criticised for not being in Europe enough," Wallis said. "We have now invested a huge amount of time and money here, and quadrupled the staff."

But one of the biggest complaints had been over XPress' complex pricing model. "You used to have to go through a book to understand all the options to upgrade Quark," said Wallis. "Now it is one price and that is it."

The full edition of Quark costs £749, versus £249 for the upgrade which, according to Wallis, is available to all Quark customers regardless of which previous version they are running.

There is also an Education licence for £130 and a Lab Pack, which offers a per-seat licence of £65.

Much of the emphasis in the upgraded version of XPress had been on graphics and illustrations. "One of the things we have been spending a lot of money on is better support for [Adobe] Photoshop," said Jürgen Kurz, senior vice-president at Quark. "We now have the best Photoshop integration on the market."

The new software adds more support for open standards in documents and pages, another area where the company had been criticised. "Standards? That was something else we didn't do when we were in our own little world," said Kurz. "We support XML, PDF, HTML, PPML and others now."

While it is known that Quark has lost a lot of market share to products such as Adobe's InDesign, the company is reluctant to discuss numbers. It still maintains that it has 80 percent of the page layout market, but admits many users will have more than one page layout system.

Quark continues to be one of the few companies that offers free support. Wallis said this will not change in the near future, and will now include a free paper manual with every version of Quark, and a new computer-based video tutorial system.

"We are the only one in the industry to offer free support," said Kurz. "We surveyed our customers over printed manuals and it was very clear that that was what they wanted. It does make it so much easier when you are working on the screen — to be able to look something up."

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