Web becoming 'print TV'?

The heads of the major publishing software companies took the stage at the Seybold Seminars in San Francisco Wednesday to discuss the future of publishing. Their consensus: Print and the Web need to peacefully coexist.

Norman Meyrowitz, president of Macromedia Inc., kicked off the presentation by noting the popularity of the San Francisco company's Flash technology, which lets Web developers add streaming animations to sites. Macromedia reports that Flash files can be played by 85 percent of all browsers, and the technology is shipping with all new PC operating systems sales.

Meyrowitz cautioned, however, that the creativity unleashed by products such as Flash has resulted in so much Web content that workflow is a problem for site managers. While Macromedia doesn't have a specific workflow product in development, the issue will become more critical as Web publishing proliferates, he said.

"Macromedia has been focusing on the Web, but with Web development, it's all about time," he said. "With the Web, everything is instantaneous."

The Web as 'PrintTV'

That sentiment was backed by Tim Gill, chairman and chief technical officer of Quark Inc., who said that, in essence, the Web is becoming "PrintTV." Although immediate accessibility to content will be a main feature, sites also have to figure out how to repurpose content to get more value.

Gill noted that Quark's new offering, avenue.quark, which enables users of the Quark Express publishing system to output to HTML, is the first product the Denver company is delivering to help customers repurpose for the Web. He promised more, at the same time reassuring print production types in the audience that printed materials like packaging will always need to be developed.

"No one's going to get their Wheaties on a CD-ROM anytime soon," Gill quipped.

Next up was Chuck Geschke, president and chairman of Adobe Systems Inc., who focused on technologies the Californian company has developed to take advantage of content already developed in its Acrobat and PhotoShop products. Geschke reviewed Adobe's Tuesday announcements of new server technology for encrypting Acrobat PDF (Portable Document Format) documents called PDF Merchant, and its associated plug-in for Acrobat Reader called WebBuy.

"There is an awful lot of money that is going to move from conventional distribution retail channels to the Web," he said. Adobe is helping customers make that transition, he noted, much as it helped businesses develop catalogues for mail-order sales.

WebBuy will be generally available in the fourth quarter. The PDF Merchant server components will be available in the first quarter of next year, he said.

Finally, Robert Stein, chief executive officer of Night Kitchen, a developer of electronic book technology, offered this perspective on digital documentation.

"A book is the one medium where the user is in complete control of the experience," he said. "We can have the same kind of control" over audio, video, text and other media with new publishing technologies.