Adobe Systems Inc.’s
professional page layout application
has been putting an increasing amount of pressure on the current market leader
QuarkXPress. The pressure from Adobe hasn’t swayed
resolve to release an OS X version on its own timetable and even with Adobe’s gains, one analyst still thinks it’s Quark’s battle to lose.
An early lead for InDesign on OS X
With the release of InDesign 2.0 Adobe became the only page layout application to support Mac OS X. Released in a vacuum with no major competitors, InDesign flourished among design professionals that wanted to make the switch to OS X, giving the company an early lead in the OS X market.
“Right now, InDesign is threatening them [Quark] in the sense that it is picking up everyone that is looking for change,” Peter Dyson, editor of the Seybold Report, told MacCentral.
While InDesign made many feature enhancements in version 2.0, there were still some perceptions the company had to overcome to win over the loyalties of Quark users and new users coming into the market.
Whether it’s Quark or InDesign, both products are mission critical for the people using it. Having even a small bug interrupt the workflow is not an option for the magazines, newspapers and other organizations around the world using these products.
Service providers an issue
Adobe needed to convince potential customers they wouldn’t be taking a risk if they made the move from Quark — their message has apparently been working. Market data released in September by NPD Intelect showed InDesign with a year/year sales increase of 188 percent.
But Adobe’s job was bigger than just selling the product; they needed to make sure its customers had service providers to accept the files, training for people that wanted to make the switch, seminars to teach users how to best integrate the product into their workflow and schools to teach students how to use InDesign.
When InDesign was first released, service providers reported to Adobe that one out of every 100 jobs they received was from InDesign. Today, Adobe says that one out of every 10 jobs received are InDesign files.
The perceived lack of service providers has been a problem for Adobe — obviously people are not going to switch a mission critical application with no service providers to handle their files. This is something Adobe has been focusing on in their marketing and in seminars, often times bringing local service providers to seminars to speak to attendees.
Adobe says that in the past year they have brought the number of service providers worldwide from 1500 to 3600.
Training converts and students
Adobe’s next task was to make sure the major schools that taught design were at least including InDesign in their curriculum. So far, over 100 schools — including Carnegie Mellon, Parsons School of Design and Fashion Institute of Design — have adopted InDesign in their classes. Some have even gone a step further, according to Adobe.
“Schools like Carnegie Mellon have thrown Quark out the door and are using InDesign exclusively,” Ian Manasco, senior product marketing manager for InDesign, told MacCentral. “We asked several schools what their reasons were for doing this and they cited Adobe’s reputation as a company; better pricing; and they were thinking about where the job opportunities be for their freshmen students — they thought a large percentage of the jobs would require InDesign skills.”
Adobe has also increased the number of Adobe Certified Training Providers worldwide from 30 in 2001 to over 200 in 2002. The company has worked with CompUSA to provide free hands-on training to any InDesign customer, as well as offering a free Total Training two-hour Quark to InDesign conversion CD. To date Manasco said 15,000 Total Training CDs have shipped.
While InDesign has made inroads into Quark’s territory, the real test will come next year when QuarkXPress for OS X is released. Adobe will have a tougher battle on its hands when they compete with a product that is also optimized for OS X. Even with the pending Quark release, Adobe is confident they will come out on top.
“Next year when Quark comes out on OS X, we’ll prove that we’ve been making great strides and we’ll have a lot of customers saying that for us,” said Maria Yap, senior product manager for InDesign. “I think that next year we’ll be the stronger competitor compared to the new version of Quark.”
Quark making its own timetable
Despite pressure from Adobe and increasing criticism from its users, Quark is standing its ground on when they will release an OS X native version. Recognizing that QuarkXPress is an integral part of a company’s workflow, Quark says they want to make sure the product is solid before it’s released.
“I think history has shown us which path we should take,” Glen Turpin, Quark corporate communications manager, told MacCentral. “With QuarkXPress 4, we succumbed to market pressures and released software before it was ready — we learned from that lesson.”
Quark recognizes that some customers have chosen to adopt InDesign instead of staying with Quark in OS 9 or using the Classic environment in Mac OS X. Turpin said the reasons for staying with Quark come down to business decisions.
“I think it really depends on the type of person you are talking to,” said Turpin. “As far as we can see, the sort of person who will say they are switching applications because of an operating system change tend to be driven by the look and feel. The people that stick to OS 9 are the people who make more of their decisions based on business reasons.”
Development of QuarkXPress for OS X
QuarkXPress will be an OS X only application when it’s released next year. Quark has changed a lot of the architecture of the application to take advantage of the more modern APIs offered by Apple as well as some underlying system technologies. All of these changes will give Quark users performance enhancements when they use XPress under OS X.
“When the next version of QuarkXPress comes out on Mac OS X we are throwing in some features we think are cool and revolutionary, and certainly unlike anything that’s on the market right now,” said Turpin. “Those feature decisions were based on what can produce tangible, material benefits for our customers. You can have cool features that help you for the next two weeks or several months, or you can have less sexy productive features that you keep your business alive for the next five years — that’s the way we look at everything.”
While Quark will introduce “cool and revolutionary” new features in the next version, Turpin said there are fundamental differences in the way Adobe and Quark build software.
“We’ve taken a really different approach to building software than Adobe has. There are a lot of intriguing features in InDesign — they are going for sexy features. Our approach has always been features that bring you sound business benefits — they may be less sexy but they produce at the end of the day. QuarkXPress is known for performance and reliability, output you can count on; those are the things that really matter.”
Quark’s commitment to Mac OS X
Quark is what many consider to be the last major application to come to Mac OS X. Several products have been seen as deal breakers for customers moving to OS X, including Microsoft Office, Photoshop, Dreamweaver and others. Quark is the lone holdout at this point, but they say it has nothing to do with their commitment to the platform.
“OS X is a great platform and we are moving forward on a version for that operating system,” said Turpin. “We’re still on track and pushing really hard to keep to our schedule — we have never announced what that schedule is because we don’t like to make promises we can’t keep. The one promise we are making is that yes there will be a Mac OS X version of QuarkXPress — that commitment is unwavering.”
Many of InDesign’s current customers once used QuarkXPress, but made the switch. Various reasons lead design professionals to InDesign, not the least of which was Mac OS X.
“When InDesign 2.0 was released, my Apple reseller suggested it may be time for me to try InDesign once again, as he had received some positive reports about the release,” Alec Fromm owner of
AP COM visual communications
in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, told MacCentral. “At that time, I was about to make the switch to OS X and was not looking forward to using any application that was not OS X ready, since I was planning on running all my apps and OS X on some pretty “old” hardware. InDesign 2.0 ran well enough on the older hardware for me to make a complete switch.”
A QuarkXPress user since 1998, Fromm didn’t have as difficult a transition from QuarkXPress to InDesign as he expected. With the exception of a problem with some Quark naming criteria of colors that InDesign stumbled on, the process of converting 300 QuarkXPress customer files took approximately 15 to 20 hours.
“My level of comfort with InDesign reached close to optimal within approximately three months of steady use, without too much referral to the Adobe documentation for the program,” said Fromm.
While Fromm and many like him have effectively made the Switch to InDesign, Quark has not seen the last of him as a customer. Curiosity about the new version and the market domination of QuarkXPress will keep Fromm in both camps for the foreseeable future.
“I will likely purchase a copy of QuarkXPress for OS X when it is finally released,” said Fromm. “Although InDesign will continue to be my page layout program of choice, QuarkXPress will remain in my collection of software as long as a substantial portion of my industry continues to insist on using it.”
While an OS X version of QuarkXPress will be in Fromm’s office in case it’s needed, it’s going to take more than a new application to make him switch back.
“I see no reason at this moment I would consider switching back to QuarkXPress,” said Fromm. “InDesign offers superior output/layout options and is pleasantly familiar to any user of Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop, making it the ideal page layout application for me.”
Staying with Quark
While some former Quark users have made the switch to InDesign, Adobe’s offering in the page layout market doesn’t appeal to everyone. Familiarity with Quark and some difficulties with InDesign have some users waiting for the next release of XPress.
“I find much of InDesign’s functionality less fluid than Quark’s,” said Steve Greenblatt, a freelance creative director from New York City. “Type manipulation in particular feels clunky — less intuitive, and somewhat rigid. I was particularly disappointed in the way my documents printed on my Epson 1280. Page placement was very inconsistent, and I had less control over output. Just the other day I created identical page layouts in QuarkXPress and InDesign — nothing too fancy — and had a far less satisfying experience overall with InDesign.”
Many Quark users that have tried InDesign are quite satisfied to stay with XPress, even if it means staying or rebooting in OS 9 to get the job done. Greenblatt uses Quark in the Classic environment of OS X 10.2 for the most part, but if there is a lot of volume he will reboot into OS 9 to handle his printing jobs. This is something design professionals will not be able to do with machines built in 2003 — Steve Jobs announced in Paris that all machines built in 2003 would not have the ability to boot into OS 9, although OS 9 will continue to work in Classic.
Like many others before him that relied on Adobe Photoshop or Microsoft Office to get their work done, Greenblatt says OS 9’s days are numbered for him. “Once Quark offers an OSX-native version, I’ll lock 9 away in a curio cabinet,” said Greenblatt.
As much as Greenblatt and other loyal Quark users want an OS X version of the application, he would rather wait until Quark has it right. The delay, Greenblatt thinks, isn’t something that will affect the company long term.
“It’s frustrating for sure, but far from fatal. As much as I wish Quark would get something to market today, I think they’re obligated to make the first release as nearly zero-defect as possible,” said Greenblatt.
Quark’s battle to lose
Even though Adobe has been converting many Quark customers and have been getting the word out through their seminar series, they haven’t dethroned the king of page layout design yet. The InDesign team is very confident in their product and believe their hard work, early support for OS X and ongoing communication with their customers and service providers will pay off in the end.
Quark is similarly confident that its customers want the best product they can deliver with features that will keep them productive.
But 2003 will see the real battle of page layout applications. Adobe with its dominance in many different market segments will fight hard to push InDesign to the top of the heap and Quark, with its new OS X native version of XPress, will try to fend off the assault from the creative applications software giant.
“In spite of Adobe’s superiority in some areas this is still Quark’s fight to lose,” said Seybold’s Dyson.