Personal Computers

Apple Faces Quick-on-the-Draw Rivals in Desktop Publishing

Michael Schrage
The Washington Post

October 20, 1986

What VisiCalc did for the Apple II, and Lotus 1-2-3 did for the IBM PC, it's fair to say Aldus Corp.'s PageMaker has done for Apple's Macintosh.

The premier desktop publishing software package, PageMaker gave people a cost-effective reason to buy the Macintosh. Exploiting the Macintosh's multiplicity of fonts and graphic orientation, the program is a nifty fusion of technical excellence and market-niche champion.

But for all Apple's real and perceived success in desktop publishing, it's still an IBM world-and the software developers know it. While the original IBM PC was little more than a press of Procrustes for a desktop publisher, the PC-AT with graphics boards creates a golden new technical and business opportunity.

"What's changed," says Paul Rainerd, founder and president of Aldus, "is that the PC is becoming more of a graphics base machine" that finally provides "not ideal, but acceptable" desktop publishing quality.

What one loses in typographical finery on the IBM is more than offset by the fact that virtually all the data to be printed already resides on IBM PCs. Corporate America wants its desktop publishing software to interface easily with its existing data-base and word-processing software.

Compatibility counts for a lot. Rainerd clearly believes this. He expects Aldus Corp.'s "PageMaker for the PC" to double his company sales within a year to more than $20 million.

What Aldus has done is taken the Macintosh interface and the PageMaker functionality and shoehorned it into the IBM PC software domain. The software, which should be released shortly, is expected to sell for $695. It runs on Microsoft Window and Aldus recommends an AT or compatible with at least 512K RAM, a 10-megabyte disc and an IBM Enhanced Graphics Adapter (EGA) or Hercules Graphics card.

Xerox Corp. similarly offers a package called Ventura Publisher-an $895 program filled with features PageMaker lacks-including batch-processing features that make it easier to prepare items such as books and catalogues. Ventura seems targeted to big corporate desktop publishers, such as the government, banks or Fortune 500 companies that need to run off a thousand training manuals at a crack.

Software Publishing (of PFS fame) offers its $695 Harvard Professional Publisher (no connection to the eastern college of that name) and Studio Software offers its "Front Page" for the same price. Both are regarded as a cut above adequate.

For those interested in quick and dirty desktop publishing, check out Click Art Personal Publisher for $185-also from Software Publishing.

The graphic hardware technology and the AT have combined to reduce the technical edge the Macintosh possesses. Will the installed base of graphics-oriented PCs loosen Apple's grip on the market?

"We're betting on both machines," says Rainerd.

The significant advantage Apple still retains is that it offers a complete system from computer to laser printer for its customers. But Rainerd points out that IBM recently created a corporate desktop publishing independent business unit-the same kind of independent business unit that gave birth to the IBM PC.

This is a market that IBM takes very seriously. Clearly, the big winners are going to be clever software developers such as Aldus Corp., and people who need the flexibility and diversity that desktop publishing can provide.

Copyright 1986