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McIlroy--QuarkXPress and InDesign Battle it Out

May 2000
There's an interesting controversy raging in our business right now that harkens back to the good old days when we had "The Great Page Layout Wars." Remember those wars? Aldus PageMaker vs. MacPublisher (win to PageMaker). PageMaker vs. Letraset Ready!Set!Go! (win to PageMaker). PageMaker vs. Ventura Publisher (win to PageMaker, eventually). And then QuarkXPress vs. PageMaker. Now, that was some war! The battles raged for years. When PageMaker was an Aldus product, it seemed like PageMaker was winning the war. Then Aldus sold PageMaker to Adobe.

It should have been a good hand-off. Adobe has always been a solid player, well-entrenched in offering high-quality software to the graphic arts and design markets. Adobe, like Aldus, always offered some of the best levels of customer service. The company was well-funded and successful. But, PageMaker lost. What went wrong for Adobe?

The Contender Stumbles
Arguably there were several factors involved; but, to my recollection, the number-one reason was that Adobe took its eye off the ball in the all-important Macintosh market. At that time, Windows PCs were in a minor ascendancy in the graphic arts, and the new wisdom mandated that software should be released more or less simultaneously for both Macintosh and PC computers.

At that time, the feature set of PC PageMaker was well behind Macintosh PageMaker. Adobe had to hold up the progress of the Mac version, while bringing the PC version to parity. Quark took advantage of the lag, and moved QuarkXPress for Macintosh well ahead of PageMaker in terms both of features and of its stability for PostScript output in professional production environments. Before you could say "collect fonts for output," prepress professionals had begun to recommend QuarkXPress to their customers.

Quark had created a volunteer sales force among the world's printing and prepress companies. Game over. PageMaker continued to prosper in the office and SOHO markets. But QuarkXPress took the title of the best-selling page layout software, and ended up with some 85 percent to 90 percent market share at the high-end part of the market—not necessarily the most lucrative, but certainly the most prestigious. Along the way, Quark became a hugely profitable private company and made multi-millionaires out of its two co-owners, Tim Gill and Fred Ebrahimi.

As time passed, the two warring fiefdoms suffered the mortal consequences of Quark's triumph. Quark started to become the arrogant victor. Its customer service efforts began to disintegrate, even as its software upgrades became ever more sporadic, bug-ridden and high-priced. Customers continued to use QuarkXPress because it was still the best software tool, but their resentment towards the company turned, in some cases, to fury.

 

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