San Francisco Ð With little to show from its past efforts in publishing except arrows in its back, NeXT came to the Seybold conference here in September with a full quiver of third-party publishing solutions and a message that set it apart from the rest of the publishing pack.
The software arsenal included both full-featured, packaged applications and modular software objects, all carried under the banner of the NeXT Publishing Environment (NPE), which NeXT CEO Steve Jobs redefined in his keynote address as a strategy encompassing custom applications, shrinkwrapped software, extensible software, and modular objects. Jobs said that more than 100 developers are currently shipping or preparing NPE products.
Following Apple CEO John Sculley at the keynote session, Jobs declared that "the 1980s in desktop publishing were about shrinkwrapped software, human integration, and personal productivity. The 1990s are about software objects, automatic operation, and operational productivity."
To demonstrate, Jobs showed how NeXTSTEP tools such as Object Linking and DBKit could be combined with a shrinkwrapped program like RightBrain's PasteUp layout application to quickly create an ad-layout system customized for a travel agency.
"With its modular approach, NeXT is showing the direction publishing has to go. We've reached the point of diminishing returns with shrinkwrapped software. The challenge is to deliver the last ten percent of what people need to do, and that means modularity," said Jonathan Seybold, publisher of the Seybold Reports and host of the conference.
While modularity may be the way of the future, however, the market also demands a complete shrinkwrapped software library. With programs such as Altsys Virtuoso, Pages by Pages, and a slew of new image-processing applications, NeXT has filled in most of the holes in its publishing suite.
But cracking a market dominated by Macintosh and Windows remains a formidable obstacle. "The question for NeXT is no longer if it has the software. Now it is a question of market perception and psychology," Seybold said.
Some developers believe that publishing in the 1990s will focus more and more on hardware performance. "Personal computers have run out of power at the high end," said Lauren Flanagan, president of Goldleaf Publishing, which makes NeXT-based color-correction and calibration software. "Rather than replace Macintosh networks for publishing, NeXT will get its foot in the door as an engine for image processing and other compute-intensive applications."