Quark Quitting Desktop?

by Jeremy Schultz and Pariah S. Burke

We’ve been hearing a rumor the past few weeks. Designorati.com doesn’t normally trade in rumors–that was the job of the late ThinkSecret.com–but this particular rumor has been gaining momentum, and it fits with facts we already knew. Moreover, the rumor, once a whisper, is now being spoken aloud in some rather public places, by some rather public people.

QuarkXPress has always been synonymous with desktop publishing. Along with Photoshop, it helped launch and define the industry and change the way printed materials are created and published all around the world. However, nothing in either the software or desktop publishing industries is forever. After nine years of bloody battle with competitor Adobe InDesign, it appears Quark might be ready to throw in the towel.

The rumor is this: In the coming days, certainly by the end of First Quarter calendar 2008, Quark, Inc. will announce a total migration of its flagship product QuarkXPress from a desktop publishing application to an enterprise-level server publishing solution client. In other words: Quark will discontinue selling individual copies of QuarkXPress for use on standalone desktops. To continue using QuarkXPress beyond version 7.3, the rumor goes, will require utilizing QuarkXPress as a network client to an enterprise-grade publishing server such as QuarkXPress Server or Quark Publishing System.

Yeah, yeah. You’ve heard it all before, haven’t you? Next we’ll tell you Quark is selling out to Adobe, right? Although Quark declined to return our phone calls requesting an official response, this particular rumor has some traction.

Writing on the Wall

This rumor has been communicated to us over the past year on separate occasions by three confirmed Quark employees, two other anonymous sources claiming to be Quark employees, as well as several representatives of other companies that do business with Quark. Most recently–and most loudly–the rumor was given voice from the podium of the Des Moines, Iowa InDesign Users Group meeting Tuesday, 19 February. According to sources present at the meeting, Jim Maivald, InDesign XML guru extraordinaire, conveyed the substance of the rumor as fact to attendees and other speakers.

Depending on your point of view, all of those spreading the rumor may be easily discounted as misinformed. In fact, we would have scoffed at the whole thing had it not matched up with information we already knew and certain well established facts.

In November 2006 Raymond Schiavone took the reins as Quark CEO. Schiavone’s last position was that of CEO at Arbortext, Inc., a company that began as a desktop software company but which Schiavone transitioned out of the desktop market and into enterprise publishing systems.

Even more compelling are Schiavone’s own statements. In a September 2007 interview with Quark VS InDesign.com Schiavone admitted to telling Quark senior staff: “QuarkXPress has lost against InDesign. That fight is over.” In the same interview he went on to qualify the statement by saying: “What I meant by that is that we’re not going to compete with Adobe. I don’t want to be someone else’s company. I want to be our own company. There are other things that are our strengths that Adobe doesn’t [do]. That’s a losing proposition to be another person’s company. I want to focus on innovation, not replication.”

QvI: What are some of those innovations, those “strengths that Adobe doesn’t” have?

RS: While I can’t give you specifics because development is underway, I can tell you that we are making enhancements to our server-based enterprise products and developing new products that will comprehensively serve the digital publishing needs of our current and potential customers and expanding capabilities in our QuarkXPress product. You’ll be hearing more about all of these initiatives next year.

Quark VS InDesign.com publisher Pariah S. Burke, interviewed by his own publication, responded to Schiavone’s statements with a prediction that Quark would complete a move to an entirely server-based publishing systems company by the time Quark released version 9 of its products:

I think QuarkXPress will continue to have utility on its own, but its primary role will be to function as a desktop client for an as-yet unrevealed enterprise-grade suite of systems.

XPress 8 will be the first stage, I predict. It will have few new features designers really want, but will offer greater scalability and automation important to managers of large publishing workflows. It, and Quark CopyDesk 8, will offer tight integration with XPress Server and new enterprise systems Quark will announce over the course of the next two years. [Schiavone’s] realistic goal for the XPress 8 generation of products will be to make the market take notice of Quark again, to open a dialog with large workflow managers who will help refine Schiavone’s vision for XPress 9.

By the time XPress 9 and its matching systems do release (probably less than 12 months following the release of version 8), QuarkXPress will be little more than a client application. All the real power will reside on the server-side systems…

Ultimately, I believe the average small-office, home-office user of desktop publishing systems will completely forget about Quark before QuarkXPress 10 because Schiavone only cares about small and medium sized businesses now; once they’ve fulfilled their purpose as stepping stones to enterprise, Quark will have no further use for them.

I also think QuarkXPress 10 won’t be desktop software at all. It will be a server-hosted, instance application, which isn’t feasible for SOHO and small studios. Similar to the way QuarkXPress License Server functions today, companies will purchase blocks of licenses. But, instead of installing the XPress software on users’ systems and letting the License Server manage the number of concurrently running copies, users will log into their workflow systems and use a copy of the QuarkXPress client that actually runs on the application server rather than their local computers. The change from desktop to server-hosted, I believe, will begin in earnest with XPress 9, which will have a desktop installable as an aid to assist Quark customers in transitioning to the new server-based software. Beginning with XPress 10–or 11, if the outcry is great enough–the individual installation version will be removed. Companies that can’t afford the hardware required to run such a setup will be unable to use XPress.

After 2012, I don’t think Quark will care too much about desktop users because it won’t offer products to them.

If the rumor is true, if Quark will anounce in the next few days or weeks its departure from the desktop market, Burke’s predictions will be coming true much sooner than he feared.

Jeremy Schultz is a graphic designer and is the owner of his design firm, Jeremy Schultz, specializing in graphic design, web design, illustration and multimedia.

Pariah S. Burke is a design and publishing workflow consultant with Workflow:Creative, the author or co-author of four design software books, a freelance graphic designer, and the publisher of Quark VS InDesign.com and Designorati.

15 thoughts on “Quark Quitting Desktop?”

  1. I expect Quark to do it quietly, probably issue a press release portraying the shift as a move toward server-based publishing (rather than away from desktop publishing) and that’s all we’ll hear of it. It will hit home later when we see QuarkXPress transform into a non-desktop application. Those who have stuck with QuarkXPress until now will now have no choice but to switch, or move to a server-based solution (which doesn’t make sense for independent designers and small shops).

    However, interesting side note: the announcement was rumored to be made this week, but it’s Wednesday already and nothing has been said….

  2. nothing will be said, it’s just a marketing ploy by adobe and nothing more.
    this is nothing more than a scare tactics from adobe. Desktop software from quark is alive and kicking and I can see that being proven this year and can’t wait to see the comments and stories develop over the next few weeks and into the late year.
    and I’m sure you won’t correct your unfounded comment when this is proven later in 08. Maybe adobe is scared about the imminent release of quark 8 and want to use this as a way to divert attention!
    it’s only Adobe people that are saying this.

  3. Adobe’s in a position where it doesn’t need to rely on rumor and scare tactics to sink QuarkXPress. As for the rumor, it comes from a solid source and it was aired publicly so I have no reason to doubt it. The only thing up in the air is the timing of any announcement.

  4. This makes no sense. Why would Quark abandon something like 50 million in income? InDesign is competition, but they are in no way crushing Xpress. There’s just too many things that high-end publishing shops need that InDesign won’t do.

    This especially makes no sense because Quark is completely capable of doing both at the same time and reaping both income streams. Who throws away money?

  5. Jeremy, Solid source.. .. Mr Adobe Marketing VP is a very solid source.
    If you are so confident that this going to happen are you willing to bet your reputation on it? If you are you are it obviously means less to you than it should. It’s about time people take responsibility for false stories only to try and benefit them selfs.

    True design expert and design leaders know where Quark stands, and their comments seem to lead to a totally different story.

    David Carson – Jeremy Shultz which has a more respect in the Design community?

  6. Whether the rumor is true or not doesn’t impact my reputation—I am merely reporting what was said at the meeting. If it’s not accurate then I will be pleased, because I have been a Quark user in the past and I think QuarkXPress is good for the industry. It practically made the industry what it is.

  7. And this was a Adobe meeting correct?
    Words spoken from an Adobe spokes person!
    credibility? this reminds me of a recent law suit that was just settled!

  8. Yes, the rumor surfaced at the local InDesign User Group meeting. However, Jim Maivald is not an Adobe spokesperson or Mr. Adobe Marketing VP—he’s an independent graphic design consultant and trainer. The only connections I can find between him and Adobe are (1) he is an Adobe Certified Expert in InDesign and Dreamweaver, (2) he coordinates the Chicago IDUG meetings and (3) he is a sought-after consultant for InDesign and XML.

  9. aaaah, I see the Quark connection and how he would have such vision into the inner workings of Quark!
    And the only thing in this whole thread that now has more validity is the accusation of scare tactics, weather from Adobe or InDesign “Consultants” that seems to be the only merit in which a story like this could be based.
    And yes writing a story like this does impact your reputation, your giving credibility to a bias comment made on unfounded knowledge spoken by a person that can financially gain from scaring people into believing such things, not to stop their but you also have financial interest if any body was crazy enough to believe them.

    What would be now interesting is to see a Article on why Jim would say such rubbish and stop people looking at Quark, Because it’s clear Quark has a far more complete XML strategy short and long term.

  10. Schiavone “QuarkXPress is and always will be the foundation of our product portfolio and we will continue to invest in it to meet the needs of individual designers and large organizations alike.”

    Was that the big announcement?

  11. To let everyone know, this same article is posted at QuarkVsInDesign.com and there are several comments from people who have not commented here. Good material for discussion!

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