An Open Letter to Steve Jobs
Congratulations on the 20th anniversary of the Macintosh. All of us in the creative community owe you and the Apple team a big "thank you" for giving us tools that aid creativity instead of hinder it. Apple's recent success in the video and music areas has been satisfying to watch, knowing that it was here, in the page-layout world, that the Macintosh found its considerable voice.
I'd like to suggest that for a brief moment you take yourself back to those meetings at the Good Earth Restaurant in 1983 where you, Chuck Geschke and John Warnock hatched a plan that would completely change the page-layout and design industries. Your instincts and persuasiveness at that time altered Adobe's direction and assured development of the software tools we have today. It must have been a lot of fun.
That Was Then
But that was 21 years ago, and it may seem like the graphic arts and publishing worlds have long been conquered. To some extent they have, and I can understand why you might find the topic of page-layout and image-creation pretty boring. But we need Apple now more than ever, and I am certain there's financial opportunity still to be had.
Once Apple and Adobe firmly established PostScript as the standard, we all benefited from rapid tool development and huge capabilities gains. Everything that can be done in the graphic arts has been able to be done on a Mac with Adobe software for some time now. Yet there are still two huge missing elements -- ease of use and simple integration. Those are what we need from you.
Adobe has delivered very capable, standards-setting tools over the years, and some developments, like Adobe Version Cue and the Creative Suite integration, hold promise. But quite frankly, as capable and reliable as Adobe's tools are, they have become very complex and often get in the way of the creative process.
While Macromedia's efforts have been stellar, their products don't integrate well with the printed-page. And the Web and print documents really are starting to converge. The trading of graphic elements, data, and text from print to the Web is ramping up to full swing.
Plus it looks like Quark will be out of the game soon, so even though they had some of the right ideas, they may finally get their "come-uppance." Except for Tim Gill's first accomplishments, Quark's timing and execution have been poor.
This Is Now
So here's what I'm asking: Can't you look back a little bit, and see that it's too early to cede the world of print- and Web-page creation to Adobe and Macromedia? There's room for a series of consumer-to-professional applications from Apple that handle page-layout, image-editing, and maybe even paint and drawing (still got MacDraw around?).
We need you to do for us what you did for the video and film world when you put together a brilliant acquisition strategy, combined it with your understanding of good user interfaces, tied performance to your best machines, offered several entry points but never under-delivered, then won over the market from well-established leaders.
It looks like you're taking the music industry by storm now too. Great stuff. Way to go. We never doubted it. But it's making us a little jealous here in 2D land, where we "got it" first. Kind of like watching Michael Dell dance, if you know what I mean.
The good news is, I don't think this would be too hard to accomplish. There are plenty of lesser-known, very capable programs out there, like Stone Studio, Arcsoft's PhotoStudioX (which Apple bundles on some machines now), and Ragtime -- even Ready, Set, Go! is still around. Heck, you might even be able to pick up Corel for a song -- they have some pretty good technology, and I know Apple would design better-looking boxes.
And of course we all fantasize about Apple ripping Quark away from Fred Ebrahimi and turning XPress into the product everyone wants it to be. But that probably won't make financial sense until long past Quark's relevancy. It's pretty much Adobe's game now in anything related to the print and electronic page, and Macromedia's on the Web side. The only way to win is to take advantage of your ability to deliver easier-to-use products that are well integrated with your other software and hardware products. And provide a clear upgrade path from beginner to professional.
I'm sure you and many others at Apple have imagined an iPages program that connects to your iPhoto library, your iMovie library, and your iTunes library so you can create interactive PDF documents to send to your friends and family.
Now take that concept up to the Pages Pro level (which we know Apple can do) and you'll win the hearts and minds of a jaded high-end user base. And for everyone in between, there's always Pages Plus, the capable 'tweener program you'll develop.
If you don't care about us electronic elders, think about the next-generation of graphic designers. There's no upgrade path on our side of the creative coin. It's not fair to make new designers jump headfirst into Photoshop, InDesign, or Dreamweaver. And what's going to turn on an even younger generation to the idea of page creation and illustration?
iMovie and now Garage Band will inspire many kids to take different creative paths with their lives. We need that same dynamic in every part of the creative disciplines, including static and interactive page design.
But what about Windows users? There are more and more of them in the page-creation disciplines. I think you'll agree with me in saying, "Well, what about them?" There's nothing wrong with one segment of a market making strides over another segment because of a choice of work tools. I'm sure there are plenty of examples out there in the video production field where users switched to Macs just to be able to use Final Cut Pro. What's wrong with that?
And not to sound any alarms, Steve, but one of the problems Apple faces right now in the core graphic-arts market is that all of the main tools work fine in Windows. I.T. and purchasing managers are starting to wonder why they can't once and for all squish those last few Mac users like so many bugs. Not all of your fans actually cut the checks.
My point is, if Apple made some great software tools for graphic artists, you'd not only hang on to a loyal base of customers, but I think win back quite a few. Especially now that the G5 has gotten everyone's adrenaline pumping. And a lot of people are on the fence right now, waiting for the whole InDesign vs. Quark thing to reach its bloody conclusion.
So help us out here. We're family, after all. And we need you now as much as we did back when Linotype and Scitex were fighting over who could charge the most for their proprietary composition systems. But I know Adobe is family, too, even though you're at odds with those guys at times. So I'm sure it must be hard to figure this one out.
Designers, page-layout artists, illustrators, photographers, writers, and editors all need to get back to the creative process. We're tired, if not a little bored, by the whole production thing. Many of us will be very happy to pledge lifelong allegiance to Apple if you give us what we need. Heck, a kick-in-the-pants like that might even give Adobe a boost in the end.
Thanks. I've tried to find out if Apple is already considering such a move, but your team is way too tight lipped, so we'll just wait and wonder, like always!
Read more more Gene Gable.
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