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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Advice for Adobe...

I was reading a blog by Thomas Calburn here regarding Adobe:

"... A person who knows you recently told me that you're shifting a number development jobs overseas and that some engineers are polishing their resumes in anticipation of the worst. ...

I hope it's not true, but regardless you need to do better with Acrobat and Reader security and you need to get a strategy that doesn't involve selling people $600+ software packages every two to three years. Those days are over."
I hate to tell you Thomas, but you are already too late, at least in terms of RIP development.
(The last big news there was the PDF Print Engine back in 2006.)
Many suspect that all support for OEM RIP issues comes from India or the UK today.
Even before 2006 support for OEM B/W RIP issues came for the UK (perhaps outsourced to Global Graphics?).

There is little left for Adobe to do in the US but squeezed profit out of every last CS sale and perhaps be acquired by Microsoft.  Flash is being pounded by Apple (though I cannot find the original comments referred to in the link at the Adobe site).  In the long run Flash won't survive the beating it will take from HTML5.

Adobe had a good run.  I was a product manager at a company called Unilogic in early 1980's.  A good friend of mine at the time did what I believe to be the world's first "PostScript" software drive for Unilogic's Scribe document production software.  (The work was done in his basement across the street from CMU.)  I remember talking to Chuck Geschke about the driver and the support for it.  They (John Warnock and Chuck) where just a "little start-up" at the time with some big ideas - we didn't take them as seriously as we might have.

This was all hush-hush at the time.  There were numerous issues as the PostScript VM was still being debugged - it ran out of VM space and spewed out debugging info everywhere.  The device was the original Apple Laser Writer.  
Scribe had an Interpress driver.  It drove the Xerox Dover laser printers.  The Dover was the precursor of the commercial Xerox products like the 9700.  The Xerox Alto, developed at Xerox Parc (where ethernet was invented), was one of the first GUI-based computer systems.  The Alto's emitted Interpress which the Dover could print.  Later the Alto turned into the Xerox Star Office system - I guess the ultimate commercialization of the Parc technology was a failure.

I recall using one of the Dover's in early 1980's.  It was at Carnegie Mellon University.  Xerox had donated a bunch of Alto/Dover/Ethernet equipment to the university so that the students would develop familiarity with the technologies.

(I recall that some enterprising lad's had put the Coke machine in the computing lab on the ethernet so that you could see if there were still bottles in the machine before you put your money in.)

Things have come a long way in the intervening 30 years.  Things like Illustrator and PhotoShop, along with Quark, changed everything about the world of print and, ultimately, the graphics on the web.

About five years ago I recall talking to Fred Ebrahimi at Quark - I think about data-driven publishing - which I thought should be integrated into Quark.  This was around the time they were moving their development to India.  InDesign first appeared around this time and I think that they lost interest in data-driven publishing.
So there's a lot of precedence for a move oversees on the Adobe end - after all - why pay $50.00 USD an hour for what you can get for $5.00 USD.

At the end of the day the purpose Adobe was created for has now been accomplished.  It created the world of digital print as we know it.  It changed how software talked to digital printing devices.
Geschke and Warnock succeeded in their dream.
PostScript and PDF dominate the creative world for print production.  As a byproduct, many web-based graphic arts technologies got to come a long for the ride.

(Though as a side note PDF was created in the early 1990's but didn't rate its own RIP until 2006.  I think this attests to the fact Adobe never really got out of "PostScript" gear on the RIP side.)
I hadn't though about this, or even my roll in it, for many years - it only came to mind when I stumbled onto the original link and I started writing this post.
The sad part is that all this history will soon be forgotten - even by me.  I am sure all of the big actors from this golden age have died, moved on, or lost interest.  Today's youth don't care or know about any of this.  
They just use the tools left behind.

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