Mac Scope

Who's Taking a Beating, Apple or Quark?

Stephen Van Esch - 2003.01.22

OS X is rapidly gaining ground, and Apple is cracking the whip by more or less eliminating OS 9 booting in their latest machines. Software developers are hopping on the OS X party wagon and releasing software for OS X like there's no tomorrow.

So where's Quark in this? It's not news that Quark is a laggard when it comes to software development. Quark's XPress is likely the only piece of productivity software that goes for years between significant updates. In previous years, this lack of speed only hurt Quark users. Now, however, the game has changed and Quark's tardiness may be affecting Apple's sales. The common thread goes like this: "Quark has a stranglehold on the publishing industry. The publishing industry is holding off on hardware upgrades until Quark releases an OS X version of the software."

Apple gets the short end of the stick in this scenario. They are being deprived of sales while users wait as a truly essential piece of software takes its sweet time getting to OS X.

Is Apple really at a disadvantage here, though? I'm beginning to suspect that there may be a silver lining in the dark Quark cloud.

Quark has been a perennial slacker in the software world. A company that doesn't give a fig for its users because it honestly believes it has a product that no one will desert for love or money.

While that may have been true before Adobe started taking desktop publishing seriously again (PageMaker owned the market before XPress), it's a whole new ball game with InDesign on the scene. Reports indicate that InDesign is making serious inroads into Quark's domain. I'm assuming that the majority of these gains are not because of the inherent superiority of InDesign but because of Quark's tardiness in producing an updated product.

Where's the silver lining? Simple. Apple has been hurt by Quark's slothful attitude to product updates. Quark is a bit of a millstone around Apple's neck. Without Quark holding things up, Apple could likely get more people to upgrade their hardware at a more consistent pace. Quark's foot-dragging damages Quark more than any other company and slowly erodes Quark's market share. This is good news for Apple, because it will mean that more users are switching to Adobe, a company that is firmly in OS X's corner.

I'm not interested in seeing Quark disappear completely. Competition is a good thing. I do think, though, that a smaller, humbler Quark can only be good for Apple. Fewer of their eggs will be in the Quark basket, and this will allow them to pursue a development timetable with developers that are willing to work with them instead of against them.

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Stephen Van Esch is the founder and president of the E-learning Foundry, an online training resource for Mac users. Steve loves the Mac and is doubly bilingual, since he's also fluent in Windows and French.

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