HP Looks to Get Good Press
After grabbing a lot of attention at PRINT 01, Hewlett-Packard's deal to acquire all the outstanding shares of Indigo quickly was overshadowed by its much larger and somewhat controversial bid for Compaq. However, HP management reports the Indigo purchase is still on track and has only been slowed by the U.S., Israeli and Dutch laws involved.
As vice president and general manager of Digital Publishing Solutions at HP, Bill McGlynn has been a point person for the Indigo acquisition. Assuming things go according to the original plan, the following Q&A with McGlynn offers some insights into what the deal will mean for HP, Indigo and their customers.
PI: How independently will Indigo operate from Hewlett-Packard?
McGlynn: Indigo will become a division of our Digital Publishing Solutions group and will continue to be led by the organization's current president, Rafi Maor. Rafi will report directly to me. As such, Indigo will be an integrated part of Hewlett-Packard, but will operate much as it does today as a standalone division focused on selling digital presses to the commercial printing industry.
PI: At PRINT 01 you talked about HP helping corporate clients to build effective enterprise operations. For what types of operations and how often do you expect this to include bringing an Indigo press in-house?
McGlynn: We will illustrate the power of digital printing as we work with a select number of our key enterprise accounts to reinvent the way they currently communicate with employees, customers and prospects. This reinvention will drive information to a wide range of devices—from PDAs to digital presses—utilizing the power of the Internet as part of an integrated information network.
We expect the bulk of their printed pages to be customized or personalized versions of current print collateral materials. Our belief is that, in most cases, these pages will continue to be produced by commercial printers, although on an HP Indigo digital press.
Commercial printers continue to play a very important role in the production of high-quality color documents because of their knowledge of color workflows and their ability to prepare, print and finish completed documents. Most corporations are very happy to leave this expertise in the hands of the printer. Therefore, we expect to focus our marketing activities on the enterprise and our selling activities on the commercial printer.
PI: You also talked about connecting with, or driving digital printing work to, commercial printers. Are you envisioning some kind of formalized print supplier network or co-marketing programs?
McGlynn: From our initial foray into the commercial printing industry, we have discovered that the entrepreneurs who invested in digital printing are a close-knit, cooperative group willing to help each other expand the total volume of digital printing. We envision the expansion of this group into a cooperative network to which we can funnel digital pages.
This network will allow us to work with our enterprise clients to set up proof points for the value of digital printing. We can do test marketing campaigns, for example, that will route jobs to these printers to prove the value of the process.
In some cases, the enterprise will continue to use the network for all its digital printing needs. In other cases, the enterprise will need a local printer with digital printing capacity. In either situation, the volume of digital printing will go up.
The network will also allow digital printers to back each other up. If one printer receives a peak job on a tight deadline, they can share the workload. By using HP's expertise in color science and the remote proofing capabilities we introduced at PRINT 01, we can deliver a color-calibrated environment that will guarantee each printer produces work with the same quality and color.
In addition, we envision the need for enterprises to print customized, tailored documents close to their final destination. A network of certified digital printers would provide that capability, again with the standard of excellence for which HP is known.
PI: Are there other benefits that new Indigo buyers and/or current users can expect to see from HP's increased involvement?
McGlynn: We are looking forward to working with the current Indigo installed base to both learn from those customers and help them grow their businesses. We are exploring several alternatives to effectively market the potential of digital printing to those who create documents. We've already touched on the idea of a trial program to prove what digital printed documents can do—for example, to improve response rates.
Another idea is a series of regional seminars targeted to corporate marketing organizations, ad agencies and designers to educate them about the power of digital printing.
We also expect our user community to benefit from the work we are doing at the enterprise level. As enterprises put together unique, tailored applications, they will be helping us define how to best produce digitally printed documents. We will then share this expertise with our printer customers to help them sell some of their existing clients, which tend to be smaller corporations (in comparison to HP's key enterprise accounts).
We will have a commercial printing-focused consulting group that will be able to implement these packaged applications on a smaller scale very cost effectively.
PI: To what extent will the consumables and front ends be integrated or standardized across HP's color printer/proofer and press lines?
McGlynn: At this point there is no specific synergy to standardize the consumables among the different organizations, though we do have an excellent consumables infrastructure that can help us optimize manufacturing and distribution of products.
Our expertise will come to play in the area of color science, assuring that we can fully utilize the entire color gamut of each device while keeping the color looking the same. We already have simplified the exchange of color documents in the office space so that, regardless of the device, each HP printer will provide a very similar look. We can do that in this environment, too. Our goal is the effortless exchange of color documents from creation to production.
In summary, we will utilize our expertise in enterprise operations to drive pages to digital presses in the commercial printing environment by helping enterprises reinvent their corporate communications, making them more relevant to the target audience, more timely in their delivery and more flexible to drive a range of intelligent devices.
Round Two of InDesign vs. QuarkXPress
After being saddled with a moniker like "the Quark killer," it's not surprising that the initial release of Adobe InDesign didn't live up to the hype. The company has taken a more conservative tone in launching Version 2.0, but still claims it is "setting new standards for professional layout and design."
Enhancements for professional printing applications are said to be a key focus of the upgrade, even though it also features expanded tools for going beyond print. Examples of the former include performance improvements, support for transparency and an improved printing interface.
Responding to criticism, Adobe says it paid a lot of attention to improving the performance of InDesign, both in terms of raw speed and productivity. It's quoting speed improvements of as much as 1,000 percent or more for some basic functions, such as "Place Text or Image" and "New Document."
Version 2.0 integrates transparency functions into its layout tools and reportedly provides reliable output of transparent effects, including offering previewing of overprints and spot colors. Related creative tools include new drop shadow and feathering effects and opacity and blend modes (that work like Photoshop blends). Users also can place native Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop and PDF files that contain transparent elements.
The new, streamlined print interface provides feedback about what output settings are enabled and how these settings interact with each other. In addition, version 2.0 provides previews of spreads, simulates overprinting when printing proofs to desktop PostScript printers, enables bleeds to be specified independently on all four sides of a page, and eliminates the need to use the Adobe PS driver. Users also can save a summary of all of the print settings specified for a job in a separate text file, which then can be handed off to the print production process or archived with the job.
For applications beyond print, InDesign can import and export XML files, with embedded meta-data tags making it easier to track, manage and retrieve documents. The application can build XML-based structures into new and legacy documents, and can generate tagged Adobe PDF files for eBooks.
In positioning the layout application versus its other offerings, Adobe asserts that PageMaker is targeted to business publishers who create brochures, newsletters, signage and reports; and FrameMaker is designed for corporate publishers who produce printed manuals and e-books.
Adobe still faces an uphill battle in the market, since surveys of prepress/print operations have found they currently are receiving few or no InDesign files.
As the market leader, Quark doesn't have to position its latest upgrade as an answer to Adobe's challenge, but QuarkXPress 5.0 does boast most of the same feature upgrades. The company is stressing the extensive beta testing of the product that was done, undoubtedly in response to problems associated with the initial release of version 4.0.
Version 5.0 is said to offer a wide range of new and enhanced features to support print, Web and PDF workflows. Users can import and/or export dozens of file formats, including HTML, PDF and XML.
A key new feature is "Tables" functionality, which enables users to create graphically rich tables with cells that can contain pictures and text. Tables reportedly provide virtually the same level of typographic and image control provided for page layouts.
A new "Layers" feature would seem to be a direct response to the capabilities of Adobe's applications. It is said to allow users to isolate items within documents, thereby facilitating the production of targeted marketing materials, versioned projects and documents with language or text changes.
Version 5.0 also provides a more efficient print user interface, enhanced PDF support and better color management.
"I like the improved interface for printing in QuarkXPress 5.0," comments Michael Kresse, director of technology for EconoPrint, a small commercial printer chain based in Wisconsin. "The new Print dialog box is very straightforward, and I especially like the fact that our customers will be able to package fonts with their documents. It's also working well with our variable data imaging software, which is an added bonus."
With the release of version 5.0, Quark is introducing new license management software targeted to multiple-seat installations. Quark License Administrator is said to make it easier for organizations to install software and manage user access, so very large enterprises can share the use of a smaller number of licenses.
Ironically, QuarkXPress 5.0 and InDesign 2.0 really are not so much competing against one another as they are both challenging the dominance of QuarkXPress Version 3.1. Quark has been a victim of its own success, with many users so far finding no compelling reason to upgrade beyond that level. Whether or not the rest of the user community decides to upgrade or switch will have far more to do with the adoption rate among prepress/ printing operations than any feature enhancements.