A Field Day for Desktop Publishing Aficionados

John Eckhouse
The San Francisco Chronicle

September 4, 1986

Euphoria over desktop publishing, the latest buzzword in the computer industry, brought nearly 1000 people to the start of a four-day conference in San Francisco yesterday.

Desktop publishing refers to the use of desktop computers to create typeset or near-typeset quality documents ranging from memos to brochures to books. It can save users large amounts of time and money compared to conventional printing methods.

The four-day Seybold desktop publishing conference and exhibition at the Hyatt Regency Hotel is the first of seven very expensive desktop publishing seminars to be held around the country in the next 30 days by different sponsors.

"We're in a kind of feeding frenzy," said John Page, senior vice president at Software Publishing Corp. in Mountain View. "It's like the airline deregulation, the market goes crazy when the bell rings."

The term desktop publishing was coined in October 1984 by Paul Brainerd, president of Aldus Corp., a software company. He said the industry is poised for enormous growth as more and more people realize the vast number of uses for desktop publishing.

Bill Gates, chairman of Microsoft Corp., said desktop publishing may even eliminate ugly business memos and spreadsheets. He called desktop publishing "the most exciting thing going on in personal computers."

Other speakers warned, though, that industry expectations for desktop publishing may be too high.

"When cold reality sets in, a lot of people will drop out," Page said.

Steve Jobs, president of Next Inc. and former chairman of Apple Computer, predicted that desktop publishing may even disappear as an individual market. He said that every personal computer will incorporate desktop publishing capabilities as standard equipment soon.

"This is a $600,000 event to talk about a non-existent market in two years," Jobs said, referring to the $595 conference fee paid by the nearly 1000 people in the audience.

Even today the market is relatively small. John Meyer, president of Ventura Software Inc. in Morgan Hill, estimated that only 30,000 desktop publishing software programs and 120,000 laser printers were sold last year, compared to more than 3 million IBM compatible personal computers.

In dollar terms, though, the desktop publishing market has grown from nothing to almost $500 million in the past three years, Meyer said.

The 97 companies at the exhibition will introduce more than 50 new products, including many for the IBM PC. That should provide a major boost for the PC, which despite its overwhelming sales edge has trailed the Apple Macintosh computer in the desktop publishing market.

Unlike the Macintosh, the IBM PC was not created with graphics presentations in mind. Panelists at yesterday's seminars disagreed on how quickly IBM will be able to overcome the limitation.

John Scull, Apple's marketing manager for desktop publishing, said the Macintosh will maintain its lead because of the costs involved in retrofitting an IBM for graphics. Gates of Microsoft agreed that the Macintosh offers a far lower price at present, but said IBM's upcoming use of VLSI (very large scale integration) circuits should sharply reduce the cost differential.

One new product introduced yesterday that should help the IBM PC is a version of the Pagemaker program from Aldus Corp. The original Pagemaker program for the Macintosh helped create the demand for desktop publishing.



Sales to commercial typesetters and corporate buyers (n), in billions of dollars:

(n) Excludes sales to newspapers and sales of printing or output devices.

Source: New York Times


Copyright 1986