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'2008 Is the Web-to-Print drupa': Bernd Zipper
Global platform for XML graphics
William Pollard (will789)     Print Article 
Published 2008-06-11 06:25 (KST)   
At the Innovation Parc for drupa, the print show in Dusseldorf, Germany, Bernd Zipper has announced his conclusion that the most significant technical development this year is the link between print and the Web.

Held every four years, drupa is the largest show for the printing industry and has a global audience. Previous years have been identified as marking a shift from letterpress to litho or acceptance of making a plate direct from a computer.

It had been expected that this would be the "inkjet drupe," as some significant machines were demonstrated and a shift toward digital printing continues. But the drupa Innovation Parc (dip) shows the growing prominence of software and networking.

Web access at drupa.
©2008 Messe Dusseldorf

Zipper suggested that people in print no longer consider the Internet as an enemy, but as "part of the toolbox": "Web-to-Print is the workshop of the digital salesroom for those who produce media." Following a book published last year there is a considered definition of what "Web-to-Print" involves.

Server-based online creation of individualized documents, including business processes, in the print and media industry.

Web-to-Print is not a completely new business model; rather it is a different approach to 2topical" and contemporary provision of print and media services based on IT processes.
This definition continues the classic links between print and publishing. It can include document management in any organization. It recognizes media other than print, as they may be part of related workflows.

Wide format inkjet gets attention.
©2008 Will Pollard

Zipper noted that most major print solution providers had an approach to Web-to-Print. He mentioned rumors that Heidelberg would soon make an announcement. He expressed his sadness that Apple had not turned up at drupa in 2008 and did not expand on what the Apple take on Web-to-Print might be.

In my opinion Apple may have concluded that print is only one media option and that podcasting is a more-immediate form of publishing. The iTunes store can include a PDF file but they make up a small proportion of what is available.

Adobe still has an interest in print and announced an update for the PDF Print Engine that allows better connections with variable data in digital printing. In a drupa interview, now available on YouTube, Dov Isaacs discusses some of the limitations of Postscript that are now resolved by using PDF throughout the workflow.

Isaacs expects technology similar to the PDF Print Engine to be widely adopted before the next drupa in 2012. However, my impression is that the Web options for communication are moving at a rapid rate. The print industry may not be able to respond. The equipment for creating printing plates has traditionally been replaced every three or five years. The first version of the PDF Print Engine was announced at IPEX in 2006. There are few examples of actual installation at a print service provider.

Acrobat 9 -- the consequences may be clearer later.
©2008 Will Pollard

After the round of announcements at the launch of the show, it happened that Adobe also announced Acrobat 9 and Acrobat.com while drupa continued. Although Acrobat started with the PDF file format, the new release also supports Flash and proposes a concept of a document that includes video, sound and animation.

Acrobat.com includes Buzzword, an online word processor, and Share for collaborating through stored documents. Intended for "knowledge workers," this approach could be seen as competition for print and paper. The presentations for the Creative Suite software included discussion of design for mobile devices. The approach is in some ways similar to Apple, even if there is not yet agreement on whether Flash is suitable for the iPhone.

Neil McAllister in PC World has queried whether Adobe may have taken a wrong turn with Acrobat 9. His first point is that adding Flash to a PDF file will make it less portable as there will be some devices unable to display the content.

If something is moving, dancing, and singing across the screen, is it still a "document"? Historically, PDF has been a way to deliver nicely formatted, graphically rich pages in an electronic way. One of the most popular uses of PDFs, in fact, is to print them out on plain, old-fashioned paper. What happens when you go to print a document with embedded video? If nothing else, the printout will not be an accurate representation of the original file.
My impression is that he may be right when predicting that "the new features of Acrobat 9 seem likely to create confusion about PDF in the minds of customers." Adobe emphasis on Flash has not been requested by the people buying PDF and Postscript.

Meanwhile, Beijing Founder Electronics have launched an English-language version of FIT 5, described as "professional page layout software" though the pricing is apparently intended for a "knowledge worker" audience. As Quark joins Adobe in offering Flash capability, there could be a lot of interest in FIT 5 from people who simply want to create flat pages with greater control than found in office productivity software.

The Chinese version of FIT 5 has been in use for many years and is established in leading newspapers. The networked versions will not be on offer in English but there can be no doubt about the quality of the product. There is an offer for long-term support for beta testers of the English-language version.

There may be another gap opening up in the route between XML data and page layout. Adobe had announced MARS as a project to rewrite the PDF format in XML. Although it is possible to work with PDF and XML sources, it is the case that PDF was developed before XML was available.

Jim King has explained that MARS has an appeal for "standards and open source types," which could include almost everyone working with documents and not too concerned about Flash.

"Adobe MAX" could be a term for the current Adobe as the MAX conference is continued from Macromedia. "Adobe Classic" is a way to describe the approach around PDF. The timescale is not exact, as an XML version of PDF now seems far off in the future. It may seem unlikely after the controversy over Microsoft's promotion for a rival standard to the Open Document Format, but there are signs that the XPS format may be getting wider support.

Global Graphics announced the latest version of their Harlequin RIP as used in pre-press. Version 8 is JDF-enabled and "is the first graphic arts RIP to process natively XPS, PDF and PostScript." XPS is the XML Paper Specification used by Microsoft in Vista.

Nick De Roeck, managing director of NiXPS, stated that nowadays proprietary file formats would be very unlikely to be accepted, given the support for standards and open source. NiXPS offer editing tools for XPS that are comparable with those available for PDF files.

De Roeck mentioned two examples of support for XPS -- GhostXPS, built on top of Ghostscript and Okular, a reader that is part of the KBE open source desktop. This now includes some support for XPS as well as other formats. So there could be use of XPS independent of Microsoft, with some benefits for people interested in XML.

The dip stage prepares for the CIP4 awards.
©2008 Will Pollard

XML is making solid progress in the guise of the Job Definition Format. The awards ceremony on the main dip stage gained attention for outstanding case studies in improved production though the use of improved communications. All print companies are now supporting JDF. The latest release has more detail for the ways that customers can specify a job. So far the benefits have come from cost savings, but as the Web-to-Print opportunity opens up, there is more attention for the print customers.

Representatives from Quark and Adobe shared the JDF stage to explain the latest possibilities. Quark uses the term "Job Jackets" to describe the JDF file. It seems the intention is not only to communicate the customer intention but also to set up constraints on how designers originate a file.

Adobe have a new option in Acrobat 9 to export the JDF file as HTML so that it can be more easily displayed or even printed to a piece of paper. There are still some pre-press departments where this will be seen as a benefit.

Matthias Guenther, senior product manager, Quark Inc.
©2008 Will Pollard

However, it has been possible to create a JDF file in Acrobat for a couple of releases already. Adobe tends to promote the non-print features, so it is probably dependent on print companies to educate customers on what is possible. Conversation in the dip suggests that JDF is still seen as too prescriptive.

ZMP data that is associated with a PDF or with other media can be structured in any way that allows the requirements for the job to be described. It turns out, however, that the momentum now exists for instructions and copy to be communicated. There are still many outstanding issues.

At drupa there appeared to be few examples of integration with data sources, though, this is not easy to illustrate. Web 2 was mentioned but again it was not obvious how print will connect. There were a couple of examples of personalized video but this seems to be at an early stage. There was nothing I could find about data security, a probable concern if print companies take on IT functions. Future reports will explore these issues further.

In a drupa interview, now on YouTube, Olaf Drummer from Callas looks forward to what he hopes the experience of buying print will become. It could be just like ordering a book on Amazon, whether it is a flier for an event or a complicated magazine. This may be far off in time but it became possible to think about in 2008 during the "Web-to-Print drupe."

Oce slide from drupa innovation parc.
©2008 Will Pollard

The daily dip report on Sunday continued to concentrate on the impact of the Web:

With Web-to-print, the printing industry has finally emerged from isolation. Looked at this way, drupa 2008 could be considered the start of "Print 2.0," the beginning of open interaction in and with the market. Printers tap into entirely new groups of potential customers. And print buyers finally get access to specialized printers and suppliers who can satisfy the quality and price expectations of both business customers and private consumers. Web-to-print is part of the reason for the positive mood that is once again pervading the print industry.
On the What They Think Web site, Cary Sherburne confirmed this sense of optimism based on an interview with Gerard Slot from Multicopy in the Netherlands, part of Franchise Services in the USA. Multicopy "averages 80% gross margins in a tough environment, an achievement the company has reached by focusing on workflow improvements, including Web to print, as well as cautious investments and no reluctance to charge for professional services."

Bernd Zipper on the dip stage.
©2008 Will Pollard

There will be a new edition of the Web-to-Print book later in 2008, and Bernd Zipper has updated a Web site called Beyond-print.
There will be a continuing story on the blog -- drupa2008.blogspot.com -- and future reports for OhmyNews.
©2008 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter William Pollard

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