Quark: ‘No Comment’

PAGE 3: Quark: ‘No Comment’

2007
Sep
17

Ray Schiavone talks about QuarkXPress 8, competing with InDesign, and Quark tech support returning to the U.S. He hints at Quark going public, but then ducks the big questions. We have what Schiavone said, and what he didn’t.

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The Backstory

When a journalist interviews a subject there are two sets of questions in play. There are the queries posed by the interviewer (and usually responded to by the subject), and then there are questions behind the questions. Why would a journalist ask this or that? What does the journalist know or suspect that he’s trying to draw his subject into confirming or denying? It’s the backstory, what’s going on behind the interview. Usually the backstory is self-evident. The interviewer draws the real story out of the subject such that the question behind the question is answered, that the subject’s responses reveal both the prima facie issue as well as the backstory. In effect, an interview is often a matter of the subject speaking aloud what the interviewer already knows.

In this case, however, where the format imposed for the second interview was e-mail, and given Schiavone’s taciturnity, the backstory is left untold. What elicited the above 20 questions from me? Why did I ask about this or that? Schiavone should have told you that himself, in his own way, but now if you want a complete story, it’s up to me to explain.

Although highly unorthodox, I’ll examine many of the questions by interviewing myself.

Quark VS InDesign.com Why did you ask: “Quark is a company with a lot of history (some might say baggage) and ingrained attitudes. You must have known that going into the job. How did the company greet you? What have you been doing to change the so-called ‘Old Quark’ corporate culture?”

Pariah S. Burke During a visit a few months ago to Quark’s Denver headquarters I asked several Quark managers and executives how Schiavone had been received at the company, whether his new management style was being met with opened arms or fingers in ears, and if he was generally liked. (Schiavone himself was out of town at the time.) In addition to my asking such questions directly of recently hired as well as long-time Quark leaders, others volunteered the following information without prompting.

The responses were all unanimous, offering the following points consistently:

  • The speaker him- or herself “loves” Ray;
  • Schiavone’s ideas and management style are radically different than those of prior CEO’s, and a refreshing, much needed change;
  • Those who were part of the “Old Quark” leadership team don’t like Schiavone (interestingly, some of those who said they loved and were grateful for Schiavone were themselves singled out by others as being among the “Old Quark” regime that reportedly dislikes Schiavone);
  • Schiavone is gradually replacing all the “Old Quark” upper managers one at a time.

I asked the question because I wanted to learn how Schiavone himself viewed the transition.

QvI Why did you ask: “Are you moving all of Quark’s English language telephone support and service back to the U.S., or only some of it?” and “When can Quark’s customers expect the phone to ring in California instead of Mohali? Will that be by the end of 2007, or by Spring 2008?”

PSB The why of this question is pretty obvious: Quark customers, particularly English-speakers in North America, often complain about receiving support from technicians for whom English is not a first language. Even when language isn’t a barrier, customers frequently complain about cultural differences–specifically that overseas technicians have difficulty understanding the need of American workers to solve show-stopper and serious technical issues quickly.

I wanted to see if Schiavone would address those complaints either by committing to staff English-language customer service and technical support lines with Americans, or by presenting another plan to assuage customers regarding these complaints.

To be completely candid, I already knew the answer to these questions, but I shouldn’t be the one to divulge that information. I’m glad Schiavone was willing to answer these questions when he declined to address many others. I’m also happy to see that customer support lines will once again ring in Denver. Last I had heard, a California location was still being considered.

QvI You asked: “We’ve heard that, during a senior staff meeting in Spring 2007, you reportedly said: ‘QuarkXPress has lost against InDesign. That fight is over.’ Is that how you feel? Has Quark given up the fight for the desktop publishing market?” and Schiavone responded by saying: “What I meant by that is that we’re not going to compete with Adobe. I don’t want to be someone else’s company. I want to be our own company. There are other things that are our strengths that Adobe doesn’t [do]. That’s a losing proposition to be another person’s company. I want to focus on innovation, not replication.” Was that a satisfactory answer?

PSB Yes and no. The fact that I knew about the content of that meeting and his comments regarding InDesign seemed to take Schiavone by surprise–what I know often seems to surprise Quark. I was glad that Schiavone didn’t deny the statement and that he put it in context. Of course, it prompted my next question.

QvI Why did you ask: “What are some of those innovations, those ‘strengths that Adobe doesn’t’ have?”

PSB Because it was a prime opportunity for Quark to tout its strengths and assets outside their marketing materials. As we all know, Quark’s marketing materials are rarely heralded for their accuracy and objective honesty.

I was really looking forward to this answer because I’ve talked at length with product managers about their plans and ideas for the future of XPress and other products. I’m disappointed. Schiavone’s response could have been very interesting.

QvI You asked: “Has Quark Inc. announced any dates (or general time for release) to its Service Plus customers for QuarkXPress 8?” Were you satisfied with the answer?

PSB As of my 8 August interview of Schiavone, he had not announced a release date to Service Plus customers. One month later, he had. I asked that and the following question again–the question about keeping to XPress’s stated 18-24 month release cycle–to see if I could elicit more detail from Schiavone.

My sources tell me QuarkXPress 8 development has fallen behind schedule, that it’s unlikely we’ll see a full retail release earlier than Fall 2008. Even if a fully operational retail version is late, putting out a public beta for a few months could change the overall market perception of the length of time between XPress 7 and 8 releases. Perception isn’t everything, though; no production manager worth her salt will bet her workflow on a beta product, so a beta XPress 8 will be little more than a good faith effort for most working professionals until boxed product ships.

QvI You asked: “When QuarkXPress 7 was released in May 2006, the company promised a release cycle of 18 to 24 months. If you plan to adhere to that promise, then XPress 8 should hit the market no later than May 2008. Is that when we’ll see it, or is development of QuarkXPress 8 behind schedule?” Schiavone responded: “Development of QuarkXPress 8 is proceeding as planned.” Why?

PSB See my answer to the previous question.

I should note that the response Schiavone gave was from the August interview. At that time, the question I posed was merely: “how is QuarkXPress 8 development coming?” He gave the answer as written above, but there was some hesitation in his voice.

The second time around, in the 20-questions-style, I asked the question again in a more specific manner. I wanted to know for sure whether Quark was planning to meet its promised release schedule, or if XPress 8 would not be ready by May. I put Schiavone’s prior answer under that question and sent it to him for review. Via MacLean Guthrie, Quark later confirmed that that quote was accurate and, I assume, that they considered it a sufficiently complete answer to the question.

QvI In the next two questions you asked about QuarkXPress 8, and then you jumped to QuarkXPress 9. What was that about? Did you get satisfactory answers to all three questions?

Continued On...
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