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Adobe rolling out "Quark killer" software

The world's largest maker of desktop publishing software rolls out its long-awaited publishing program aimed directly at rival Quark.

Desktop publishing giant Adobe Systems today rolled out new page layout software in a direct challenge to its prime competitor, Quark.

In a keynote address today at the Seybold Publishing Conference in Boston, Adobe Systems cochairmen Charles Geschke and John Warnock outlined the company's strategy for providing Web and print publishing, using the forum to unveil the company's much-anticipated page layout software, Adobe InDesign.

Geschke and Warnock said the company will keep its leadership position in the market by embracing the Web and providing publishing software that allows its customers to flourish in an ever growing Web-centric business environment.

"Because of the pervasiveness of the Web, the industry has been faced with huge challenges in using it as a publishing vehicle," said Warnock.

Analysts said the move is an aggressive one. "Adobe controlled the publishing market, but they want to own it," said Rob Enderle, analyst with Giga Information Group. "They can't do that with someone else in the market."

Enderle said that in the past, Adobe hasn't focused as much as they should have on Quark. With the release of InDesign, "now they are" he said.

The $699 InDesign software package, which was code-named K2 while in development, fills a "big hole in our product line," Geschke said. The software had been under development for the past five years and analysts speculated that closely held Quark's bid for Adobe was a response to the competitive threat K2 might pose to Quark and its flagship QuarkXPress publishing software.

InDesign allows users to open QuarkXPress and Adobe PageMaker files directly, the company said. InDesign even includes a compatible set of keyboard shortcuts for QuarkXPress.

Additionally, InDesign supports the Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) files for digital workflow. New color management keeps colors consistent from concept to final printing, the company said.

InDesign is based on a new, modular code base that provides an architecture with varied opportunities for developers to tailor the program to certain customer needs, the executives told Seybold attendees today.

The new architecture, they claim, sets a foundation on which Adobe, its third party developers, and system integrators can build custom publishing applications for magazines, advertising agencies, catalogs, retailers, and newspapers.

InDesign also allows Adobe to restructure its market focus by providing professional publishers with their own more advanced layout software, while directing its popular PageMaker product to the business user.

Adobe PageMaker 6.5 Plus was also announced today for Microsoft Windows 95, 98, NT, and the Apple Macintosh.

"This is not only a business to business publishing software, PageMaker 6.5 Plus can also be used to make brochures, direct mail, and newsletters," said Richard Brown, Adobe product manager for business and imaging software, in an interview.

Priced at $499, PageMaker 6.5 Plus includes a new Template and Picture Palette, for Windows users only, which makes it simpler for customers to browse, view, and search PageMaker image and template files. Users can also catalog commonly used content and templates from other applications in a variety of industry-standard formats.

It also includes a Windows plug-in that creates a Microsoft Office-style, icon-based toolbar which shortcuts to commonly used PageMaker features.

In addition, PageMaker now includes a Microsoft Publisher 97 and 98 file converter for Microsoft Publisher users migrating to PageMaker, that enables the reuse of previously created materials.

Because InDesign's architecture is modular, it will be easier for Adobe to deliver updates to the software for third parties to customize with new capabilities. The result, Warnock explained, is faster updates, more functionality, and vast new opportunities for market-specific products.

"Adobe developed this new architecture for print publishing because we don't think the solution rests in a single product, but rather an entire industry that works together to solve complex problems. To that end, we believe InDesign will become the centerpiece around which our customers build their businesses," said Warnock.

Adobe InDesign is expected to be available this summer.

Reuters contributed to this report.