Aldus Corp. Teams With Apple

Software Spells Success For Young Company

Richard Buck
The Seattle Times

April 10, 1986

Anybody who follows the personal computer industry is familiar with the claims for products that will revolutionize the workplace or relieve some age-old burden on workers.

And though more and more small computers are doing more and more jobs, it's easy to be skeptical.

But there are still fortunes to be made in personal computer software, and one of them could be in the making by an upstart Seattle company named after an obscure 15th-century inventor.

The two-year-old Aldus Corp., brainchild of a former newspaper executive, is selling its one product by the thousands.

A year ago, Aldus had 10 employees packed into cramped offices in Pioneer Square. Last month, its 44 employees moved down the block into a new office building, where it plans to occupy an entire floor and have more than 100 employees by this time next year.

Aldus has attracted a lot of attention in a short time because of its $500 software program, called PageMaker, which promises to turn any owner of an Apple Macintosh computer into a publisher.

Last year, the computer newspaper Infoworld named PageMaker its Best Software Product of the Year Runner-Up. About 16,000 copies have been sold, roughly 40 percent of them to customers outside the United States, and PageMaker has been translated into German, French, Swedish, Danish, Italian and Finnish.

``We get about 1,000 phone calls a week here from people who want to know about the product,'' says Karen Howe, marketing manager.

If Paul Brainerd, Aldus president and founder, has his way, the phrase ``desktop publishing'' soon will become as commonly connected with personal computers as spreadsheets and word processors, two other popular types of business programs.

Brainerd coined the phrase, which some computer magazines are already turning into an abbreviated buzzword, DTP, to describe what his company's product will do.

Apple Computer, which uses PageMaker to lay out pages for its quarterly and annual reports to stockholders, has started buying full-page newspaper advertisements touting desktop publishing as a major selling point for its new Macintosh Plus computers. And Aldus' program is prominently mentioned in those ads.

``This has met and exceeded all of our expectations,'' Brainerd said. ``It's a new emerging market, and there's no history really to go on'' to determine how far it could grow.

Over the last few months, Aldus sales have been slightly over $500,000 a month _ equivalent to $6 million to $7 million a year.

``If we believe the market research, this will be a $4 billion to $5 billion market in the next four years,'' Brainerd said. ``We certainly hope Aldus can be a $30 million to $40 million company in the next two years.''

Some proponents of DTP believe it could revolutionize the printing industry almost as much as Gutenberg's first printing press. Though that may be overstating the case, Brainerd believes virtually every business is a potential customer.

Nearly every business engages in some form of publishing, even if it's only letterheads and business cards. Many go much farther, turning out newsletters, price lists, contracts, marketing brochures and product manuals.

Producing all this printed matter costs companies a bundle. InterConsult Inc., a consulting firm in Cambridge, Mass., says corporations it surveyed spend 3 to 10 percent of their revenues for publishing.

Traditionally, charts, graphics, headlines and text are usually put together by manually laying out page dummies, which then are taken to a typesetter and brought back for revisions or updates before they go to the printer.

Desktop publishing, by contrast, means the ability to create and produce high-quality materials in-house using personal computers.

Apple and Aldus are touting a system that, for about $10,000, lets writers and designers lay out pages on a computer screen, trying out infinite variations in the design stage, then printing the results instantly on a laser printer or storing completed layouts on a computer disk and taken directly to a professional printer.

said, and sometimes in six months.

The Aldus-Apple connection was made in mid-1984, before Apple introduced its LaserWriter printer. ``They had to have effective software to sell their hardware,'' Brainerd said. He showed Apple a copy of PageMaker. ``It was the first product they saw that really demonstrated the capabilities of their printer,'' Brainerd said.

``It's almost as if we're business partners. In a sense, we really are,'' though Aldus and Apple have no formal written agreements. Aldus also works with International Business Machines Corp. and is planning a new version of its program to work with IBM computers.

A former editor of the student newspaper at the University of Oregon and an executive of the Minneapolis Star and Tribune, Brainerd wrote the original editorial specifications for the Atex word-processing system widely used by large newspapers. He became a vice president at Atex's Redmond plant.

When that plant was closed in January 1984, Brainerd recruited some Atex engineers to join him in forming Aldus.

In his view, the power of personal computers had never been applied to what he calls ``the whole bottom end of the publishing business.'' Brainerd set out to design an easy-to-learn product with mass appeal, one that could be sold through retailers. Aldus now has the product and has over 900 retail detailers in the United States and Canada as well as distributors in several foreign countries.

Aldus claims it has the lion's share of the desktop-publishing software market, but already there is competition and more is expected. Two other companies make somewhat similar programs, one for $100, the other for $125. But Brainerd does not think his product's $500 price tag will deter buyers.

``Our strategy is to maintain our leadership in this emerging market,'' Brainerd said.

Aldus Corp.

Headquarters: Seattle's Pioneer Square.

Founded: two years ago by Paul Brainerd.

Its product: PageMaker, a computer software program that allows users of Apple Macintosh computers to create and produce high-quality printed materials.

Sales: Now more than $500,000 a month.

Projected sales: $30-$40 million in two years.

Copyright 1986