12 September 2006

[design] QuarkXPress Vs. Its Installed Base

Just caught a job listing on Craigslist here in Portland looking for a QuarkXPress expert who can work fast. There's one important caveat though. More on that momentarily.

A central concept in computer software/hardware sales is that of the "installed base"; that pool of users who already have a version of what you're trying to sell 'em. They're already using you. They'll continue to use you as long as they work for you, moreover, they're more likely to use you in the future when your product improves through successive versions.

The pitfall here is that your successive versions need to actually be better. You still have to sell yourself–not as hard a sell, to be sure, because that installed base is most likely to use you again–but if you deliver that base infrequent updates that are either poor quality or of only dubious functional improvement (at best), then they will stay with your old versions; they won't follow you no matter how sexah you make the product.

And if something that looks better comes along, they'll look at it. And if you keep shining them on, they'll jump (helloooo, InDesign...).

You keep the fans fans by giving them compelling reasons to come along with you.

This factors back into the history of Quark because, before the current release (QuarkXPress 7), thier last big-time version was QuarkXPress 4.1. This was back in 2001. Five years, as perhaps goes a certain tautology, is an eternity in computers and software. In that time, Adobe was able to make InDesign ready for primetime and QuarkXPress is no longer the undobted king of the hill.

Back to the installed base, however; another thing that creature dislikes is change, because change is going to cost you; sheer money, to buy a seat of the software (InDesign and Quark are now about even in cost, but the entire CS2 is going to run you slightly over one-large, and the multi-langugage version of XPress, Passport, is still several hundred dollars more than QuarkXPress Regular), and time (and also money) to train yourself (or your staff) to shift over to the new software.

As time has gone on, it has made more and more sense for former Quark shops to go Adobe. And those shops have been, not XPress 5, 6, or even 6.5, but 4.1. Quark's biggest threat may be Adobe, but its biggest competitor is QuarkXPress 4.1–a software application more than five years old.

This is why XPress is vulnerable, why Adobe has been stealing market share and slowly (but inexorably) chipping away XPress's installed base, and why even though Adobe isn't going Universal until CS3 (due sometime next year) it shouldn't hurt them much, as, by the same token, even though QuarkXPress 7 is Universal, it probably won't make a difference to them long-term.

The job listing I was talking about at the front of this article insipired me down this road with one certain caveat, as I mentioned: the designer must be able to save back to QuarkXPress 4.1. If you have QuarkXPress 6.5 (as I do), you can't do it. If you have 5 on the shelf (as I do), you could do it, because XPress saves one version back...but do you want to? Will your computer even tolerate two different XPresses on the same disk?

I don't know. But as long as one can still find need for designers who can save back to QuarkXPress 4.1, regardless of how shiny-new XPress 7 is, Quark's going to have problems.

(NB: This article should not be construed to, in any way, cast aspersions on the people who placed the ad. If you're interested, go to Portland Craigslist right now, and if you're a Quarkster who can save back to version 4, hey, you might get yourself what looks like a neat freelance opportunity. The title line is :Need Quark Expert on Mac ASAP)

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Anonymous said...

One CAN run multiple versions of XPress, but remember: XPress 5 was not OS X-native. So, the question is less whether one may run multiple versions of XPress, and more of whether one can run Classic Mode and if one still owns a license to Mac OS 9.x.

Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis said...

Thanks for the input.

I have had Quark 5 on my system (that's where I started with my personal seat) and it ran rather well under Classic.

I was actually planning not to upgrade to 6. This was significantly in part because of the negative buzz that Quark was getting at the time, the immense postive buzz that InDesign 2 was getting, the prospects of the Creative Suite, and trying to wisely use my resources.

I upgraded to 6 when I found that, after upgrading to Panther, QXP5 all of a sudden didn't feel like outputting to my desktop printer (demanded a networked printer and trying to work with the Chooser in Classic was hell) and I got a look at QXP 6 (downloaded a trial) and found that I actually quite liked it (I said at the time that XPress looked good in its new clothes. I still think so). All that, and Quark lowered its upgrade price to make it worth my while.

My own confusion on the licenses stems from vague rememberances of activation and license restrictions which were, in the 4-5 days, quite strict of Quark. They are loosening them up, to thier credit.

Thanks for the feed back. Much appreciated!