Adobe touts OS X advantage over Quark

The publishing-software giant may be gaining ground on its main rival in the page-layout realm as long-time market leader Quark continues to delay support for Apple Computer's OS X.

David Becker Staff Writer, CNET News.com
David Becker
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David Becker
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Publishing-software giant Adobe Systems appears to be gaining ground on its main rival in the page-layout realm as long-time market leader Quark continues to delay support for Apple Computer's OS X.

Many in the publishing industry expected Quark to announce a release date for an OS X-compatible version of its dominant QuarkXPress software at this week's Seybold trade show. A Quark representative confirmed that the company is working on such software but offered no target dates.

Apple, meanwhile, has given Adobe's competing InDesign software a shot in the arm. The computer and OS maker announced a promotion this week in which the latest version 2.0 of InDesign, which normally sells for $700, will be bundled with all new Power Mac G4 PCs sold through the end of the year. Apple has significant clout in the industry, where it enjoys a loyal following among designers.

Although hard numbers are difficult to come by--Adobe and privately held Quark have declined to publicize market-share figures, and few third-party researchers track the layout-software market--Quark's market share has long been estimated in the 90 percent range.

Adobe was never able to make a dent in the market with its PageMaker software, but it appears to be making better headway with InDesign, introduced two years ago and updated early this year to support OS X.

David M. Smith, an analyst for research firm Gartner, said Adobe's relatively early support for OS X has helped the company gain credibility with designers, although the traditionally stodgy publishing industry has yet to move away from Quark in significant numbers.

"When Adobe jumped on OS X, it hurt (Quark), but not really in market share," Smith said. "It hurt them with designers."

Smith said the real opportunity for Adobe is to push InDesign as part of its overall network publishing strategy, which links various Adobe products as part of a system in which content can easily be re-purposed for different formats.

"Most of the graphics shops and design shops are running Quark on the Mac and outputting in (Adobe's) PostScript," Smith said. "They've been doing that for years, and it's really difficult to get them to change. But they're also seeing the value of this whole cross-media publishing idea. That's where Adobe is definitely upping the ante with the network publishing vision."

Charles Smith-Dewey, a Minnesota-based graphics professional who runs the Pounce design studio, said he switched from Quark to InDesign early this year and hasn't regretted the change.

"OS X support, or rather, Quark's glacial warming to supporting (the OS), was the major factor in switching," Smith-Dewey wrote in an e-mail exchange. "I consider myself to be a graphics professional, and I am eager to embrace any new technology to make my life easier and the products I produce better."

Smith-Dewey said that while he and many other designers have found InDesign to be more useful and productive, he still has to do some work in Quark to satisfy printers.

"I see the only real problem in InDesign making major inroads into Quark territory is getting printers to readily accept InDesign files," Smith-Dewey said, adding that designers can force the issue. "It won't be much longer before I get more aggressive and start working with my clients to award printing contracts only to shops that accept InDesign files."

Quark spokesman Glenn Turpin said QuarkXPress users are being plenty productive using the software with Apple's OS 9.

"QuarkXPress will be on OS X soon enough," Turpin said, dismissing Apple's InDesign promotion as standard marketing. "They've done co-marketing with all major vendors who've come out with OS X-native applications. I'm fully confident that when QuarkXPress becomes OS X native, they'll be doing marketing work with us."

Susan Prescott, vice president of Adobe's creative professional division, said OS X support has been crucial for boosting acceptance of InDesign.

"It's been a real comfort point for many customers looking to make a switch to OS X, and they could see Adobe was on board early," Prescott said. She acknowledged Quark's continued dominance but said customers need time to evaluate InDesign.

"This is a mission-critical application...and it takes a while to make a careful and deliberate decision," Prescott said. "We knew this was going to be a multiyear effort. Adobe is in it for the long haul."