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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15 Responses Discussing “Quark: ‘No Comment’”
  1. Fine job of reporting. Thank you. I’ve been strongly thinking about switching since our last major printing problem. Maybe this is what I need to get me off dead center.

    Their direction does make sense from a purely financial perspective, in fact it seems like the only solution for them – to head in the enterprise direction.

    Hope you can keep your off-the-record contacts, it’s quite interesting to hear the real story in addition to the for-public-consumption story.

    It would also be interesting to find out what Schiavone’s private comments are after he reads your report. Probably not going to happen though.

    #1
    17 Sep 2007
    04:37 PT
  2. Pariah, your interview clearly is one-sided and is wrought with assumptions. How can you expect a CEO tell a “journalist” what the strategy of the business is for the next 3-5 years. Do you understand competitive advantage or do jounalists not have to worry about competition.
    I do not blame Mr. Schiavone for not responding to your questions as he is turning around a software company, that has a long legacy of problems and I can imagine has more important issues to cover than defending humself against hearsay from an “unidentified source”, who you are using to create a controversy.
    Too bad you do not publizie the good news about Quark, i.e. the Quark Connects program which was announced at Graph Expo which provides all Quark printer partners with a direct avenue to the consumer/customer versus Adobe’s (since retracted) program to exclude all printers by using Fedex.
    It is very evident you are an Adobe supporter and continue to bash Quark when you have an opportunity. I strongly suggest all readers of your blog read your responses and assumptions with caution as they are very miseleading.

    #2
    17 Sep 2007
    21:26 PT
  3. hmmf… did any of you guys ever see “The Mummy”? Remember how those anubis warriors disintegrated into sand when their heads got chopped off (and when their boss got deaded)? I think all these Quark warriors are going to go the same way sometime soon

    #3
    18 Sep 2007
    03:56 PT
  4. The days of being able to charge 700-plus dollars simply to put text or pictures in a box has long since past. We all need to stop trying to get blood from this stone. And all this talk of Quark becoming an enterprise application — simply more corporate justification to maintain their ridiculous pricing schedule. Not only does InDesign beat this dinosaur feature-wise, so does CorelDRAW!, the red-headed stepchild of DTP.

    Quark… still saving pages as EPS one page at a time (or is there a $100 Xtension to fix that?).

    #4
    21 Sep 2007
    20:31 PT
  5. Since I have been back in the design community – with the ability to use, teach and speak about ALL the products that are out there. It took me less than 1 week to completely get my skills back up to speed at expert level in InDesign CS3. I have fallen in love with Bridge and the simplicity of the suite. I still teach and present QXP because I have expert level skills – but the demand is very low. My eyes are open wide, as I am in touch in InDesign users and not just Xpress users, as I had been for the past 3.5 years. I am finding people are asking me to teach/present InDesign 90% more than QuarkXPress.

    And this is because the ramp to move to InDesign has been steady throughout the past 5 years. It has not declined in the least – and Quark knows this, and has addressed it with the future plan for the direction of the company. I found out last week that one of the few major US publishing giants that is still using QXP (ver 4) – has decided to move to InDesign, but has not told Quark yet. I know because they were in a class that I taught on Transitioning to InDesign.

    It is sad because I truly supported every effort the company made to reach out to the Quark community – however, I think the boat was missing during the old administration days. I applaud Quark for recognizing what they have to do to make the company viable once again, which means changing the strategy and vision. Quark will survive – whether it’s product line changes, whether or not the company is sold or becomes a public entity is yet to be seen.

    The PM team at Quark is great – and they know what they are/were up against and realize the changes that the company has to make. However, revealing them to the public could damage the company severely. I know the path of some of the new technologies that are being built – but cannot discuss them until 9/6/08. If Quark has not released anything new by that date – then feel free to get tin touch with me.

    In the meantime – explore your options, look at the design tools that are best for you. Even if Quark did go all-enterprise – the support will not go away for the desktop products. By the way – the employee that will be heading up the new Tech Support team in Denver is amazing and he is a long time Quark employee and truly cares about customer support. Congrats Craig!

    I look forward to attending the Quark Symposium in Chicago on October 30 to see if Quark is changing their messaging. I will follow-up with a full story which can be found at http://www.creativeblvd.com – where I am the Editor-in-Chief. I am pulling for Quark and am looking forward to seeing new technologies.

    #5
    22 Sep 2007
    07:09 PT
  6. Hey there Pariah, very interesting reporting. Thank you!

    A couple things … have you been to the Quark Forums lately? Seen all the higher-ups and VPs listed by name as the moderators of the forums and actually participating, helping, asking for sample problem child files etc. from the users who post there? I thought of that when Ray said “if there’s a customer problem, we pull in everyone to help.” It’s heartening to see, I tell you. Adobe staff help out on the Adobe forums, but on their own time, and coverage is spotty. They make it clear they’re User to User forums. There is no other way to talk to an Adobe official other than paying for the tech support call. So the free 800-number support plus the responsive, authoritative forum support is really great to see.

    The other thing … you were talking about Quark moving to some sort of a hosted solution. I think just about every software developer and their grandmother is doing the same thing. Starting with Web 2.0 goodness like Google’s spreadsheet and word processing programs, to Photoshop Elements and Premiere Elements built into photo sharing sites, to Microsoft Office Live … if Quark *weren’t* planning on moving at least some offerings in that direction, I’d be surprised. Or I guess I should say, I wouldn’t be surprised; but you say/surmise they are, so to me that’s a sign at least some people over there are in touch with industry trends.

    I don’t think you’ve been frozen out of Quark. Maybe they just want a break. ;-)

    #6
    23 Sep 2007
    10:34 PT
  7. Asking hard questions is part of being a journalist. If Quark is really uncomfortable with these questions, they should really think twice about going public. Journalists and investors will be relentless. Once they go public it’ll be much tougher to BS, because that’ll just make them look either stupid, dishonest or both. I wish they’d go public just to see their financial. Seems like Ray knows what he’s doing, but they really need to work on their PR.

    #7
    24 Sep 2007
    09:53 PT
  8. Reading through the first half of the article, I really felt that his answers were like something that the PR department would write.

    Kudos to PB for seeing through them all. A great and interesting read.

    #8
    28 Sep 2007
    05:46 PT
  9. I had an opportunity to work on the development of Quark XPress in
    India starting version 5 and can vouch for huge amount of hard work which had gone into the development during last few years.
    Though there were a number of difficulties which had to be overcome the development process had started stabilising by the time version 7.0 was completed.
    Observing the intensity of exchanges and the emotional outpourings I can’t help but hope for early stabilisation and timely release of impoved versions

    #9
    29 Sep 2007
    23:19 PT
  10. I’m using Quark for about 9 years now. It’s been getting better and better with every version, and at the time it was launched, I thought the 7.0 version was truly revolutionary. But now I chose to switch to InDesign. By the words of Schiavone, “that war is over”. That’s it.

    #10
    09 Nov 2007
    11:48 PT
  11. Just as i would say, i switched to InDesign with Version 1.5. Shure was buggy that time, but improved so much. Quark was still good in that time and still has some functions InDesign is missing… But there are so many things way better in InDesign.

    Someone got a list of the differences between those two?
    That be nice…

    #11
    14 Nov 2007
    00:57 PT
  12. The war is over?

    How about ScribusVsIndesign.com? How long will it be before Scribus has more users than Quark?

    #12
    27 Nov 2007
    10:27 PT
  13. i like working in Quark, i now they have problems to compete with adobe but they have to be patiente and not to pay attention on graphic issues like inDesign but on my oppinion on speed, stability, simplicity …

    greetings from Europe

    #13
    06 Dec 2007
    18:27 PT
  14. Adobe’s new pricing in Europe is probably not helping either.

    #14
    07 Dec 2007
    08:58 PT
  15. they’re firing again… though not that britally this time.. its a new HR policy – implied firing… all those ppl who dont get a 1 yr contract letter are implicitly fired..

    #15
    13 Jan 2008
    21:59 PT

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