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Friday, December 16, 2005

"Classic publishing" moves to India

The new shape of Macromedia and Adobe is beginning to appear. This post is a first attempt to describe it. There may be something different later. The main impression is that the original Adobe project around Postscript and PDF is no longer at the front of priorities. Macromedia concerns around Flash for animated web design and mobile devices have more of a future. There is now a business unit in India for 'classic publishing'. The word 'classic' is possibly like the word 'legacy' for some computer people. It sometimes means those lumps of content you might want to switch to something else.

The business units are arranged around the customer segments, as explained by Shantanu Narayan, president and chief operating officer of Adobe Systems, in an interview with Forbes. The Creative Suite will now work seamlessly with Flash and Dreamweaver for creative designers. For knowledge workers, Acrobat will now work with Breeze for collaboration and video conferencing. For enterprises and government there is a life cycle of documents. This will now inlclude Flex as well as PDF.

"Finally, there is mobility: The possibilities inherent in alternate devices excite me the most. There are a billion people in China and India who are never going to connect to the Internet using a PC. They're going to connect through a cell phone or an alternate device. We have the opportunity to also provide an environment for people to engage with that information on those devices like what Macromedia has done with Flash Lite [for cell phones] and we have done with DoCoMo by bringing Adobe Acrobat to its cell phones. There are so many opportunities."

Notice that, as far as I can make it out, there is no mention in the interview of the "classic publishing" business unit. More on this later.

The enthusiasm for mobile devices continues with a robust view on infrastructure in the USA. "....when I talk about alternate devices--our telecom structure here in the U.S. is significantly behind. Look at Korea, China, India and Eastern Europe--that's where a lot of the mobile revolution is happening. It's the people there who are going to figure out what new solutions and services are required."

As part of the presentation of quarterly results, Adobe have published a guide to products and business segment classification. Also on the website are executive profiles. These show there is Macromedia representation in the business units. The 'Creative Solutions' includes Fireworks as well as the bundles of Creative Suite and video. Brian Lamkin is the 'acting' VP for this unit. 'Knowledge Worker Solutions' includes Acrobat, Breeze and FlashCom Server. The VP for 'knowledge worker solutions' is Thomas Hale. At Macromedia, Hale was senior vice president and general manager of the Communications, Publishing and Training Division. Enterprise and Developer Solutions now includes the Live Cycle server PDF products and Flex and Coldfusion. The VP is David Mendels. At Macromedia, Mendels served as executive vice president and general manager for Macromedia's tool and server product division. The 'Mobile and Devices Solutions' only shows Flash products. The VP is Alan S. Ramadan. At Macromedia, Ramadan was the executive vice president and general manager of the Mobile and Devices Division and performed similar responsibilities to his current role.

On the Business Segments Classification for Financial Year 2006, the final section is shown as "other", otherwise known as the "Print and Classic Publishing Solutions Business Unit". The VP is Naresh Gupta, who has worked for Adobe since 1997. He is also Managing director of India Research and Development. He started the Noida research campus and is now integrating the Macromedia campus at Bangalore. The product range may reflect those being developed in India as well as a focus starting with print and "classic publishing". The scope mentions 'e-learning', probably refering to Contribute. The base product seems to be Postscript, arguably the basis of classic print and publishing as developed over the years since Charles Geschke and John Warnock left Xerox Parc. Mostly the products seem to be for desk top publishing other than InDesign. Freehand in recent years has not had much promotion from Macromedia but it has gathered up several hard copy features such as support for multiple pages. Many people still believe it has advantages over Illustrator in some circumstances. Pagemaker is definitely a classic. Framemaker has a history on UNIX platforms and is designed to work with long structured documents, often linked to data such as XML. It is unclear when InDesign will be able to cope with long documents adequately.

As reported by Hindu Business Line, Adobe will hire an additional 300 staff in India. Naresh Gupta is quoted as saying "The Print and Classic Publishing Unit in India would be responsible for profit and loss of various products from both Adobe and Macromedia."

"This is a big move for India, as it demonstrates how we are moving up the value chain. Many companies do product development in India, while others undertake functions such as maintenance and support. Adobe is not only looking at product development, but also business development from India. I believe this is the first time a global brand is bringing business unit functionality to the country," Mr Gupta said.

Up to this point, this post is more or less based on facts, some from Adobe, some from other sources. Below is speculation and opinion.

The PDF theme seems to me so scattered about that it could become obscured. The market segmentation may make some kind of sense in launching products but it makes it harder for people to have a coherent view of the technology. Creative professionals understand there is some need for forms and corporate information. The 'intelligent document' marketing stream could include the original user base for PDF. (more below on the Job Definition Format). Knowledge Workers seem to be assumed to be only interested in the desktop. Generally,they do realise that something happens on a server.

Probably Flex will get more attention as a forms front end based on Flash. As with PDF forms the aim is to collect data as XML. Many developers will concentrate on the XML aspect and not be too concerned by the design aspects.

SVG Reader is not mentioned on the list of products. Open source needs to be promoted for itself.

There is no news I can find as to the Postscript work being done in Norwich, UK. This site works with Postscript OEM partners, several based in Europe. Actual production work for publishing and pre-press is now outsourced to India to an increasing extent. Maybe there is a logic in getting technical knowledge closer to this user base. Many publishing professionals will be happy enough to continue with Framemaker. Freehand still has a lot of supporters, including creatives who have managed to find out about it. Judy Arndt recently commented "Illustrator is now based on PDF, not Postscript. It's very interesting that Adobe PostScript technology is in the 'Classic' group as well. It might not be a bad thing for FH, to be in the hands of some Postscript experts. Adobe can't wean the whole pre-press world from Postscript, overnight."

Given this apparent priority for Postscript, it seems strange that Adobe are promoting a conference in January intended for the printing industry. I can't see how it makes sense not to confront print service providers with the full picture of what is happening in publishing and media. Maybe this is part of the intention but it is far from clear. In my opinion JDF is the minimum that print companies should be offering as part of a mix of services. It is part of the agenda for Momentum in Print but there may be a view that nothing happens very quickly in print so there is no need for urgency. The views of Frank Romano will carefully considered as he has raised issues around JDF on previous occasions.

Shantanu Narayan could be right about the potential for mobile devices, but for most of the planet hard copy still has a future. Postscript and PDF-X are both open standards to practical effect so there is wider support available. Maybe this will be needed as the Adobe marketing emphasis moves more towards online animation through Flash.

There is talk of developing better connections for PDF and Flash. It is possible to capture Flash in PDF but it needs reloading. Generally PDF files have not made good use of the capability to contain movies or sound. This may be because of a lack of bandwidth or a lack of understanding. A future PDF format (2.0 for example) might be more suitable. Then again if everyone was online all the time there could just be Dreamweaver sites with occasional Flash Paper.

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