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John Parsons

Quark Ups the Mobile Publishing Ante

John Parsons Design and Production - 05/31/2012-14:07 PM

 

Remember Quark? Not so long ago, when InDesign was just a rumor, it would have been unthinkable for a publisher to design and create a print magazine without QuarkXPress. Those who clung to PageMaker were scorned as being hopelessly behind the times. Even some at Adobe were privately worried that Quark’s hegemony could not be challenged.

Fast forward to the print/web/mobile/tablet/whatever era. InDesign rules in many publishers’ minds and budgets. Quark—both the company and its products—are disregarded, even disdained. “That’s just the way it is; some things will never change,” as the song goes.

Nothing is permanent, least of all in publishing technology. On Tuesday, Quark announced the acquisition of Mobile IQ, the UK-based developer responsible for PressRun. The latter is an app-creation environment very similar to Adobe DPS, WoodWing and Mag+, giving page designers the ability to add rich media and publish to the App Store or Google Play. (In fact, PressRun uses InDesign as one of its starting points. XML-based Content Management Systems are another. The most awkward moment of my interview with a Quark spokesperson followed a question on whether QuarkXPress and its App Studio feature would be part of the PressRun workflow. Quark has not announced any such plans, but did not rule it out.)

Where the story gets interesting involves the company’s attitude towards dedicated apps versus browser-based (but still app-like) publications. Mobile IQ has plenty of experience building custom apps—notably the BBC News app for iPhone. Both its custom and PressRun-based apps use a robust HTML5 presentation layer, and officials from both companies expressed the view that tablet publications will break out of the constraints of proprietary reader apps in the fairly near future.

Others share this view, of course. Many publishers would like to break free from Apple’s constraints, and still more are not convinced that the print page metaphor is the best model for an engaging mobile/tablet app. With that in mind, Quark is about to beta test a mobile publication—based in HTML5—that is purportedly more flexible than the page-like apps we’ve come to expect.

For now, consumer magazines may still want to stick with the more design-intensive world of InDesign page layout—in which Quark is now, perhaps ironically, a player. For b-to-b, however—an area where Quark has increased its focus—the situation is not as clear-cut. Mobile IQ has a strong play with STM and other structured publications, where managed content is a strong component. Business publishers may want to broaden their search for tablet publishing platforms that integrate well with a CMS. Neither Quark nor Adobe have an absolute lock in that respect.

Who knows? Publishing technology seems to follow another song lyric, “big wheels keep on turnin’.”

 

 Former Seybold editor John Parsons is an independent publishing analyst, based in Seattle.
 

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John Parsons

Adobe’s Creative Cloud and Team Licensing: Let's Wait and See

John Parsons Design and Production - 05/24/2012-15:06 PM

 

In my May article, Creative Suite 6 and the Bottom Line, I described Adobe's new Creative Cloud (CC) approach-licensing its applications under a subscription model as an alternative to a traditional shrink-wrap license. Benefits include convenience, early access to incremental releases of Creative Suite (CS) applications, as well as access to newer applications not part of CS. What was discussed but not fully defined was the concept of "team licensing."

In a nutshell, CC team members have the same access to Adobe applications as individual CC subscribers, plus additional benefits, including more online storage, increased access to the Typekit Web font library, greater access to one-on-one technical support and troubleshooting, as well as mutual file sharing and collaboration. These benefits are described in the company's Creative Cloud Team Ready offer. However, as of this writing, many of the team program's particulars-contrasted with individual CC licenses-are still unclear.

Perhaps the most important aspect of CC team licensing is the ability to transfer a license or seat from one authorized team member to another. Whatever the other advanced features of CC team licenses may be, transferability of seats is a huge benefit for large organizations with a fluid freelance component.

That brings us to the issue of price. An individual CC subscription costs just under $50 per month, while a team subscription will cost just under $70 per month per person. When asked, Adobe spokespersons asserted that the additional benefits of a team subscription (e.g., collaboration features) would be worth the $20 difference. This is an untried assumption, to say the least, given that the full feature set for team subscribers has not been clearly articulated-much less tested for ROI.

When pressed, Adobe officials gave assurances that volume discounts would be part of CC team licensing for large enterprises-including publishers and agencies. Indeed, Creative Suite volume licensing is already a practice for traditional CS licenses. The unanswered question-still-is how large a team must be to quality for Creative Cloud team licensing discounts, and how steep those discounts will be.

The Team offering is scheduled for release this fall, so we expect to see more answers to these questions. Untl then, however, publishers and agency CFOs would be well advised to wait and see.

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