Let's Move Forward Quickly --McIlroy
The controversy stems in part from the scope of the JDF spec—more than 500 pages. At that length, no one can quickly implement the whole spec. I previously criticized the complexity of the spec (see "In Search of PrintTalk and JDF," Printing Impressions, June 2001).
But I'm pulling back from that now. The spec is not written for the general public; it's written for developers. And no one is really intended to implement the whole spec—it covers too many processes for any single vendor (with the possible exception of Heidelberg). However it's the nature of JDF's design that vendors should create software systems that can process any JDF-formatted data, and extract only what's relevant to their own devices, rather than focusing solely on a subset of JDF. But it's also clear that developing such a software capacity will extend well beyond May of next year, so perhaps NGP is a practical alternative.
The main issue, as critics point out, is that after so much work has gone into JDF, it would be a painful setback for NGP to create some kind of proprietary restrictions on that openness.
It reminds me mostly of the long road to color management. Setting standards was hugely difficult because, as with JDF, each vendor had a proprietary interest to promote, whether it was commercially motivated or simply a technical requirement. The result was that the standard was years in development and constantly in flux. As I pointed out in my earlier column on JDF, two respected industry analysts looking at color management concluded that "despite a decade of hype about how universal adoption will be as rapid as it is inevitable, the concept loosely known as color management isn't even close to becoming mainstream."
We can't afford this fate with JDF. Print is threatened, and JDF promises to make it more predictable and affordable—hence competitive with new media. I'm willing to support the NGP initiative, provided its leaders pledge to further the broadest industry cause, in the shortest possible time.