Adobe & Quark: Two different approaches to a shrinking market…
Besides being a technology freak, i’ve also been involved in design and the graphic arts for as long as I can remember. For that reason, both Quark and Adobe have co-existed on my hard drive for several years. In the beginning Quark Xpress ruled the professional page layout market with an iron fist, but after a series of really buggy upgrades and an unfortunate disconnect from their customer base in the late 90’s, Quark’s enviable 90%+ market share began to erode.
Meanwhile, Adobe was hard at work on “K2”, their Quark Killer which was eventually released as InDesign. With this vital piece of software added to their arsenal, Adobe could then introduce the Creative Suite concept to the creative world. Adobe recently released CS4 into a significantly different environment than their initial offering. While real numbers are impossible to find (Quark is a privately owned company), most estimate that Quark Xpress now clings to about 50% of the professional page layout market, the rest occupied by InDesign which has matured to a stable and robust production application. Who makes the better layout application will likely remain the subject of contentious debate well into the future.
However, all is not rosy on the Adobe horizon as the company has just announced their 2008 Q4 numbers. Apparently the world has not flocked to Adobe’s doorstep for CS4 – which is surprising because it is a really solid upgrade (you can read my review of CS4 on softcircus next week). Adobe followed this announcement with more bad news… they would not have a booth at the annual Macworld Expo, held January 5-9, 2009 in San Francisco and would be laying off 600 employees worldwide.
Meanwhile, Quark quietly continues their struggle to win back users with a steady stream of minor improvements, as well as an aggressive release schedule for full upgrades. Now shipping Xpress 8, Quark has completely re-imagined their design and layout workflow, which I wrote about in the August 08 issue of Print Action Magazine (Quark’s Midlife Crisis). And while Adobe has cut marketing budgets, the folks at Quark seem to be bolstering thiers. Quark will have a booth at Macworld SF in early 2009. Additionally, Quark has launched a new website for the design community… ilovedesign.com, which operates both as a resource and online community for Quark users. Today I found a very cool “integration guide” for Quark Xpress users working in an Adobe Creative Suite world (which, really, is ALL of them).
So, for now it seems Quark and Adobe’s roles are reversed. Adobe is now the stalwart page layout giant, while Quark has taken on the role of upstart usurper of the throne! Only time will tell if the poles can reverse yet again. One thing I’ve learned through many years in the software trenches… things NEVER stay the same for very long!