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  1. Technology
February 2, 1999


By CBR Staff Writer

By Dan Jones

Adobe Systems Inc is looking to build on positive fourth quarter results with its new K2 page layout software, extensions to portable document format (PDF) technology and precision graphics markup language (PGML) products. The company’s president Dr Charles Geschke revealed that the new page layout software, which the company hopes will make it market leader once more, will have what he called a ‘Quark filter’. He claimed that this would allow users to open and use reliable versions of documents that had been created on the rival layout program. Accurate porting of Quark documents to the new software will be vital if Adobe is to make inroads on the Quark installed base. Geschke acknowledged the tough job Adobe faced, saying that it would take years, not quarters, to displace what he described as an entrenched competitor. The K2 demonstration showed off the common interface, which should be familiar to users of other Adobe desktop publishing products such as PhotoShop and Illustrator. Other features included multiple preset layers – which, for instance, would allow simultaneous creation of duplicate pages in different languages and an ‘anamorphic’ tool for creating text effects such as scaling and skewing. However, the consensus in the London, England hall where demonstration was held was that what had so far been shown of K2 was not a significant advance on the capabilities of Quark 4. Geschke stressed that Adobe had not yet demonstrated the full capabilities of the product. He said the fact that every Quark customer is already an Adobe customer because layout artists who use Quark will generally also use PhotoShop to manipulate graphic content, is a significant advantage to Adobe’s. Geschke also said that Adobe’s relationship with third party value added resellers and systems integrators would help to promote Adobe’s resurgence in the layout field. Geschke expected to see more deals along the lines of the company’s recent link-up with SSI, which will see the firm using the K2 ‘engine’ as part of its own publishing application. Geschke also cited Adobe’s good relationship with its customers as an advantage over its rival, pointing to the bad feelings that users vented against Quark at Seybold last September (CI No 3,448) as reasons why users may consider changing programs. In addition, Geschke pointed to untapped markets such as Asia – where, he claimed, older proprietary layout systems were still largely in use. He said that the company’s PDF technology, along with the Acrobat program for PDF content creation and the reader were the fastest growing sector of the company’s business. He said that Adobe is trying to establish PDF as an electronic workflow standard. The method for achieving this aim is to encourage uptake among governmental and educational organizations worldwide. He cited the US government’s adoption of the format, especially the rapid regulatory approval scheme using PDFs that is backed by the Food and Drug Administration. Working with third parties to move into more vertical market segments would also encourage take-up, Geschke claimed. Adobe makes no revenue from the free downloadable reader and so must make license fees on PDF content creation tools. To this end Geschke unveiled a web capture tool for the portable format. The tool allows a web page or site to be converted into a PDF while retaining some or all of its active HTML links. The benefits of this, according to Adobe, are that web information can now be printed in a ‘what you see is what you get’ format at the resolution of the attached printer; offline web surfing and the creation of ‘snapshots’ of web sites at a given time. Geschke also revealed that Adobe is working on software that allows the conversion of PDFs into HTML JIF files in a server environment. This would facilitate the viewing of PDF content without a reader. Adobe also demonstrated web page content based on its PGML vector graphic format. Geschke characterized Adobe’s work with the markup language as an attempt to bring the lowest common denominator

graphical web content up to DTP standard. The demonstration showed how PGML allowed content to be zoomed in on, with no noticeable loss of resolution, as one would in a DTP package. Geschke said that the Internet Explorer browser used for the demonstration was standard with a PGML plug-in. However, the demonstration did not include the download from the web, so there was no way to judge how long that would take – Geschke said that it was typically 10% to 20% faster than standard JIFF downloads. Geschke said that PGML opened up the possibility of turning the web into a vehicle for publishing. The language is also under consideration from the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) to become the standard for web vector graphics. Geschke dismissed the PGML rival Flash from Macromedia Inc saying that Adobe would back PGML with content creation tools that future products would be interoperable with the language. Asked about where the convergence of Adobe’s DTP, web and PDF products was leading, Geschke outlined two intriguing possibilities. Firstly, database-driven document creation – that is, a template is set up and formatted by the document designer and then linked to information in a database. Then, rather than the designer having to redo the template with new information each time, the template could be refreshed at a time of database administrator’s choosing – leading to documents that could be updated every few minutes rather than every day or week. Geschke also raised the possibility of PGML being used in network computers and kiosks. He said that Adobe had tried a special Java-only implementation of PGML, using an IBM Corp Java stack, which he claimed offered c code performance and could be a compelling strategy for network multimedia kiosks. Adobe will release PGML products, enhanced PDF products and the K2 layout package this year. Geschke was cagey about when the long-awaited K2 would go on general release, it has just started beta testing. Our money is Adobe making a big splash at the next Seybold event.

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