Last week Drupa ended - we closed down our booth and headed back to Lochristi.
Now is a good time to evaluate this Drupa 2008 edition, and what it meant for NiXPS.
First and foremost, XPS was present at this Drupa. Not a headline presence, but given the fact that this is mainly a professional graphic arts fair, a notable presence.
Various vendors talked about XPS, and showed products featuring XPS. The debate is still ongoing about the merits of XPS for the graphic arts, and beyond, but when you compare the buzz about XPS on this Drupa against the Graph Expo show in Chicago September last year, it is like comparing night to day.
Hardware doing XPS was shown, a lot of it thanks to XPS RIP support courtesy by EFI and others. Every major player doing printing showed XPS capable gear, including printer behemoth HP.
Software doing XPS was there also. Imposition, importing, workflow, edit tools, you name it... XPS capable software was on display this Drupa.
XPS rumors a plenty too. Most of them I cannot/will not share, but I spoke to some vendors that make printing devices for the worldwide market, and some software vendors that make very popular page editing software. They told me off the record that XPS is on their mind. And that this 'on their mind' can be interpreted as 'we have it, but do not enable it yet'.
On the PDF front, a lot of buzz on Acrobat 9, and the delights this bring to the PDF format (wrote about that one before). And a lot of software and devices busy with the continued balkanization of the PDF standard.
Web to Print was a big buzz. The idea being that a print shop runs a storefront on the internet, and allows all kinds of data submits and graphical edits via the web. The point being that it makes for a quicker, more efficient workflow if the user can use the web to get his printing needs done. It sure is a compelling business, but looking at the amount of companies doing software for this, it is also a very competitive market to be in. More up market also the big ones are doing this (Kodak, Agfa, etc...) showing all kinds of web portals allowing a certain degree of edits and submits to the workflow. For me the concept is already quite old, as I wrote the first web based workflow component for Drupa 2000 when working for Artwork-Systems (now EskoArtwork). Fact is: a few problems are very hard to solve for the web 2 print process: infrastructure, user education & matching expectations.
The infrastructure to offer web 2 print is complicated, involving complicated server software being hooked onto a very unsafe internet. Most companies seem to counter this to offer their software solutions as SaaS (Software as a Service, the rebranded ASP, which crashed and burned around 2000 and is a tainted name now). This has the advantage that you are not selling a set of complex problems to your customer (running a web service), but has the downside of SaaS: 'trust us'®, 'your data is safe with us'® and 'pay up regularly'™.
User education is harder. If you want your user to be able to web 2 print, do make sure that your UI is good, that he cannot make a lot of mistakes, and that he can find his way easily with the software, or all the advantages come crashing down when your user is unable to use your software. You would be amazed how difficult it is to make a UI for a user that is not educated, but you want him to do his own document creation and pre-press using your UI. Saw a few good UIs, and a lot of horribly bad ones.
And then on user expectations. If the web app generates something the user is not satisfied with, what are you going to do: tell him it's his own fault? Do not expect a lot of repeat business on this.
More Drupa buzz: Digital is here to stay. Not only here to stay, but actually here to take over. You have to have quite some complicated or high volume needs if you cannot use a digital printer or press for your printing needs. These devices also get better and better at a breathtaking pace. After computer to film and computer to plate, we will end up with just computer to paper: printing digital.
Finally some logistic remarks; A drupa of 14 days is just too long, period. For the big guys building enormous booths it might make sense, but for a small company it is just not economical to have a manned booth for 14 days on a trade fair. The Drupa Innovation Parc was a fairly good venue - the focus on small, but beautiful was really there. But 14 days - come one...
So, that's about it regarding Drupa. We've met a lot of good and interesting folks, and a lot of new prospects, so all-in-all we're very pleased with exhibiting at Drupa. For NiXPS this was a good show!
We are recovering from a heavy drupa workload. Nick has taken some leave to go to Italy, his favorite holiday destination. I am leaving tomorrow to go to Barcelona, my favorite holiday destination.
We will bring you more new and exciting releases after we get back. Stay tuned!
Canon XPS demo
Just attended an XPS oriented demo at the Canon booth.
The nice folks from Software Imaging
have developed XPS drivers for a select number of Canon wide format printers.
I've gotten a demo on a wide format ink jet printer from Canon.
The demo in itself was rather unspectacular, but exiting nonetheless. A Vista PC had the XPS driver installed, and the demonstrator dropped an XPS file in a hot folder, and the printer printed it out in all its full color, high-resolution, wide-format glory.
It was nice to see a practical application of XPS in action.
HP does XPS
Reading the specs of the HP Indigo 7000 digital press
, I noticed the device can also handle XPS. Nice!
Drupa Day 7: Halfway
Day 7 here at the Drupa show. In exactly one week the show will be over, so we're halfway.
Maybe a good time to talk a bit about our Drupa experiences so far.
There are a lot of people interested in XPS technology, and are passing by our booth. They can be categorized in a few separate groups:
- Printing companies
By printing companies I mean companies that are making devices that print.
There are not so many companies that actually make printers, but quite a lot of them passed by our booth. Both engineers, but also product management and strategy people. It is clear that XPS is firmly on their radar, and they are very interested in our technology and tools. Most of them share the view that they will release XPS enabled products in the short-term, if they haven't done so in the mean time. And most of them also share the view that XPS will become a big factor of importance in corporate and desktop print.
- Service Providers
These people are running, or working for, companies that provide all kinds of services around printing and documents. There are quite a number of them that passed by. Some of them are already up to speed with what XPS is, and are also very fond of the nice marriage between XPS and WPF. And are as such very interested in XPS.
Some are not educated much about XPS (Microsoft: I'm looking at you here!), and we give them a quick overview. A lot of these people leave the booth with the feeling that they should look into this for their projects.
The more skeptic group. Drupa is a professional commercial print fair. On the software side of things this is a synonym for 'Adobe Tools + PDF'. And rightly so - for professional graphics there are currently no good solutions (both hardware and software) to work with XPS. So, as a result we get a lot of questions about why anyone would be interested in XPS, and how it would replace PDF, etc... The answers are always pretty straightforward: no, XPS is not replacing PDF for professional commercial print anytime soon, but this doesn't mean it has no market. Print is getting more digital, and more low-end. There are various scenario's where XPS will actually have an advantage over PDF (f.i. look at the slides on our homepage, where we make the case for using XSP as a delivery format for low-end digital print).
But then again, a journalist should be asking the tough questions, and we are very happy with informing them about XPS and NiXPS as much as possible; and the talks are always pleasant.
Competing companies are stopping by to talk about our solutions, and XPS. Everybody is always welcome here, as we really have no secrets about what we create and sell. It is also a very good sign that we see more and more competitors, as this indicates a healthy XPS ecosystem that is growing. It is also very interesting to hear about what a competitor's view is on XPS, and where they are going with their products.
We get quite some interest of software vendors that are interested in our XPS technology. It depends on what their software does, but XPS is also on most of their radars. We are offering our library and plug-in interface to them.
- Misc: ex-collegues, industry specialists, ...
We get a lot of nice visits of all kinds of people, a lot of them we already met. It is always pleasant to talk about our company, products, XPS, or whatever other subject that is on their minds.
All in all a nice mix, and a lot of conversations. We are learning a lot about XPS, how it is perceived, who is interested in it, who is opposed to it, etc...
For the remainder of the Drupa, I'm going to have some more one-to-one's with a select number of companies I spoke to earlier, and which expressed their interest in XPS. Hopefully we can do business with some (preferably all) of them!
More thoughts on flashy PDF
There's quite some talk about Adobe adding flash to its PDF format. For instance read this post
by Joe Wilcox, and the comments.
Joe seems to be a big fan, but in the comments you see some sound opinions against it.
From a PR and strategy point of view, I assume the move makes sense. Tying PDF to flash, 2 market leading key technologies of Adobe, Adobe releases a formidable new 'format' for electronic publishing. Or so it seems.
Looking at PDF lately, you see a lot of standardization going on:
- PDF/X: a subset of the PDF spec that is intended to make PDF 'safe' to use for eXchange. It is used primarily in the graphic arts. In that industry people want a file format that can be printed, and as good as possible. So you have various levels of PDF/X (PDF/X-1a, PDF/X-2, PDF/X-3:2002, PDF/X-1a:2003, etc... I'm not kidding, there are a lot of these.)
All these basicly define a subset of PDF, so it becomes more predictable to exchange and print PDFs.
- PDF/A: a subset of the PDF spec intended to make PDF more suitable for archiving. Here the emphasis is on making text searchable, making sure it can be rendered in the future, etc... Also here a few different 'conformance levels' - aka different subsets.
- And more PDF subsets: PDF/E, PDF/UA and PDF/H - all with a multitude of differenct conformance levels.
So - a letter soup of PDF subsets, which subset the PDF spec each time according to a specific usage scenario.
This clearly indicates that the vanilla PDF spec contains features that a lot of different users of the format would like to do away with (granted, probably not all users would like to do away the exact the same features).
It also indicates that nobody is really waiting for a PDF format that does everything but the kitchen sink.
By making PDF a 'generic container' that contains all kinds of different documents, movies and even 'application like'
interactive interfaces, it starts to look a a hell of a lot like an interactive zip archive, or even a portable website.
It stretches the boundaries of what is considered a document
, and is heading firmly into the area of what is called an application
For printing this is a bad evolution, as they will continue to block out these features, as they are irrelevant (at best), or bad (at worst) for print.
For sharing as an e-document this is also a dubious evolution. The software required to view these docs gets more and more complicated, at contrast with the current trend towards mobile devices, which are not as powerful, and lack a lot of storage for these bigger, resource hungry files.
And then, there is also security - receiving a document to view should be a passive, safe thing. Receiving an application disguised as a document, is well, dangerous...
Drupa Day 5: A Busy Monday
Day 5 - A fairly busy day today, a lot of news and visitors. Like a colleague exhibitor remarked: it feels like Drupa officially started today.
Quite a bit of news that got my attention today:
- Adobe Acrobat 9 was announced today. The next version of Adobe's flagship PDF application. I watched a small presentation about it. And one of the main areas that caught my attention is the tighter integration of Flash into Acrobat. Adobe is doing the integration game. Adobe has all this formidable technology, but integrating PDF with Flash ... I'm a skeptic.
- Enfocus is opening up its Certified PDF spec. I used to work for Enfocus, and the Certified PDF spec was a closely guarded secret. It surprised me that it was put in the open, this is good news for other vendors who would like to be compatible with Certified PDF. Interesting experiment. Read more about it here...
- We got some very interesting and interested visitors over to our booth, looking specifically for our XPS technology and products. This is very encouraging, and I hope we can do business with them (preferably with all of them ;-) )
- A few colleagues/competitors came by. Always interesting chats ('if you show me yours, I'll show you mine').
And then some shocking, saddening news: David Watson, CEO of Ultimate Technographics Inc.
died last Saturday here at the show - a heart attack. This is extremely sad news. I only spoke with him last Friday on our booth, and lately we discussed XPS quite a bit.
Tomorrow I got a presentation again on the Drupa stage - always a bit nervous for these kinds of undertakings, but last Friday it went pretty good.Update: Monday was actually day 5, I'm losing count due to the great many days this show takes ;-)