McIlroy--The (Hidden) Meaning of DRUPA
Remarkably, I encountered more than a dozen at DRUPA. The American companies mostly contented themselves with space in the U.S. vendor ghetto. Newcomers were scattered around the numerous exhibit halls, there to be discovered after exerting a little extra effort. With the interest and enthusiasm for all things dotcom peaking just before DRUPA's mid-May opening, there were a variety of European and Asian startups there as well, happy to try to convince you that they had a meaningfully different offering.
More important was news from two traditional prepress vendors, Agfa and Artwork Systems (both recent clients of mine). Each company is offering software to its customers that can provide much of the workflow functionality available from the toll-charging print dotcoms. Instead of giving up 2 percent to 4 percent of your business, these vendors demonstrated a new vision of Web-enabled e-commerce for the printing business: Buy the software you need from a reputable vendor that understands your business, and pay only a one-time fee. Radical!
So DRUPA was not totally lacking in news.
From Here to Eternity
The next question to answer is whether it's a big deal that DRUPA 2000 was no big deal. At the recent IPA (International Prepress Association) Prepress 2000 conference, held in Chicago in June, industry analyst Bill Lamparter offered a comprehensive review of the DRUPA announcements, concurring with the view that none were momentous. He went on to ponder the possibility that this in itself augers dark days ahead for prepress, printing and publishing.
The issue is complex. I'm generally of the opinion that there are indeed some very challenging days ahead for our industry. Most of the challenges come from new media and the Web, which offer more compelling vehicles than paper for certain kinds of information delivery. To believe that DRUPA would have offered a vision of a way out of this challenge is to believe that the printing industry can be saved by technology. It can't.