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GRAPH EXPO & CONVERTING EXPO 2003--Prepress and Digital Printin

November 2003
Bridging the Digital Divide

BY MARK SMITH

Technology Editor

Trade shows are supposed to be a forum for presenting solutions to meet the needs of attendees. What many people took away from workflow displays at GRAPH EXPO and CONVERTING EXPO, however, was a bag full of questions . . . and maybe the odd poster or two, a foam sword, canisters of M&Ms, etc.

That doesn't mean attendees weren't looking to buy. Exhibitors were more ardent than usual about the quality of the leads they were getting, and they claimed to also be pleased with the quantity. "Turned the corner" was a popular phrase for describing the market.

At the same time, there was a lot of speculation that manufacturers had held back in anticipation of DRUPA 2004. A wholly unscientific survey of a few vendors found agreement that, given current business conditions, no company could afford to hold back the introduction of a product that could give it a competitive edge in the marketplace. Then again, some of the biggest news at DRUPA tends to be about developments still in the works, not products ready for commercialization.

GRAPH EXPO actually got a jump on DRUPA in one sense. At a Monday press conference, Messe Düsseldorf and CIP4 (the International Cooperation for the Integration of Processes in Prepress, Press and Postpress) announced they had struck a partnership that will in effect make next year's event "the JDF DRUPA." This year's show in Chicago turned out to be a de facto "JDF GRAPH EXPO."

In big and small ways, JDF (Job Definition Format) was a recurring theme in manufacturer announcements, presentations and booth displays. The question that went unanswered was, "What will JDF compliance at the product level really mean in terms of interoperability at the systems level?"

There were seemingly contradictory statements made about the degree to which compliant products will be able to interface in a plug-and-play fashion. Or, conversely, the extent to which manufacturers must work together to coordinate their implementations of the JDF specification.

What generated the biggest buzz was the joint announcement made by the then 27 current member companies (see below) of the Networked Graphic Production (NGP) partners strategic initiative. The group says it is committed to achieving real-world, JDF-based integration of the entire printing workflow. DRUPA 2004, naturally, has been set as a target date.

Smooth Operators

Irrespective of whether or not one buys into the concept, NGP is worth considering in some detail because it provides a microcosm of the potential issues involved in the industry's implementation of JDF.
 

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