Commentary & Analysis
FREE SPECIAL: Seybold in New York: Primarily a Digital Asset and Content Management Show
Highlights from Agfa,
By WhatTheyThink Staff
Published: February 26, 2002
Highlights from Agfa, Engage, Think121 and RealTimeImage by Noel Ward, WTT Editor@Large It was a quiet show, this February Seybold at the Javits Center in New York City. It was reminiscent of Seybold events over a decade ago, with small booths and moderate floor traffic, but lacking the almost intimate feeling that attendees were among the cognoscenti of a new wave of content creation and distribution. Not that a new wave wasn't present. To a large extent Seybold New York was primarily a digital asset management (DAM) and content management (CM) show, with vendors touting a broad array of tools and solutions for handling content. On one hand, these tools looked at ways of managing information purely for Internet use, but more notable was the recognition on the part of vendors--and awareness among attendees--that there is also a need to print the same information. This is the intersection where the unique characteristics of Web and printed pages require different approaches, and where the advantages of each can deliver value for businesses and their customers. Engage, for example, bridges the gap between CM and DAM with tools that facilitate multi-channel marketing. Companies like L.L. Bean and Airtours plc use Engage ApprovalServer and ContentServer to manage the text and images used on their corporate Web pages and in print catalogs. Hardly lightweights in their markets, both firms have thousands of images, related copy and pricing information to manage and each piece has to be right every time. Engage provides customers the ability to easily and securely track, modify, update and change every element so that only the correct one is used. Other solutions focus on ad agencies, newspapers and e-commerce businesses. While the uses of Engage products span numerous applications, they can be used both within an enterprise and over the Web for collaboration between everyone involved with the content. This helps reduce time to market, decreases errors, and helps ensure messages are synchronized across different media. Similar values are offered by RealTimeImage. RTI has pioneered the concept of online proofing and each new product release demonstrates its leadership. It's latest offerings include RealTimeProof Partner, which gives third parties the ability to plug RTI's image-streaming engine into asset management programs, custom databases, and digital production workflows. This enables content owners and producers to work collaboratively with a proven technology. The Partner strategy is a cornerstone of the company's "Powered by RealTime" branding initiative as an assurance of reliability and quality in the online proofing process, much as Intel Inside and Fiery Driven have been branding components of Intel and Electronics for Imaging. At Seybold, RTI raised the bar for its competitors by announcing Professional Services Management, a new fee-based service provides consulting around its online proofing installations. Brad Giles, vice president of worldwide sales says this kind of service "…will make the difference between adopting technology and successfully adopting technology." While using RTI's technology doesn't generally require a lot of expert care and feeding, installations at multiple locations, such as large ad agencies, their clients, and print providers can benefit from more customized and sophisticated support and training. "Our biggest competitor is the status quo," says Giles, "We always look for ways to provide better solutions for our customers and help them to look ahead to better ways of doing things." RTI is not the only one thinking about proofing. Agfa has always been a leader in proofing and workflows and their big booth just inside one of the two entrances was evidence that hard-copy proofing is not about to go away. "Seybold attendees came to the Agfa booth looking for solutions to specific workflow and proofing problems," says marketing director Susan Wittner, and they could find both at Agfa. Agfa's multiple resolution Grand Sherpa inkjet proofing device has had great reviews of late and Agfa customers are finding ad agencies and designers are asking for a Sherpa Proof by name, evidence of its color accuracy, reliability and acceptance. Agfa's branding is also solid on the platesetting side of the business, where the violet lasers of the Galileo platesetter are selling well, says Wittner. "We still embrace other technologies, such as thermal imaging on our Xcalibur Very Large Format devices, but see the market acceptance of the violet laser as an indication of what our customers in the graphic arts industry are seeking." Agfa continues encouraging a PDF workflow with Apogee Series 3, which should make plenty of people wonder why anyone would use a native application file for print production. The latest version is JDF-compliant, offers more advanced levels of automation, control, scalability, openness and ease of use. Improved color management makes it harder to send jobs that won't color separate or print correctly, regardless of what type of press or printer will be used. And for improved reliability, Agfa has integrated Enfocus's latest "Certified PDF" to minimize errors and attribute all changes to the specific people working on a file. With a different take on PDF workflows is Think121 which understands printers' need to keep presses running and that supplying jobs in a generic format (PDF) helps make this possible. pdfExpress, the company's PDF manufacturing process, delivers the triple threat of creating up to 1500 PDF pages per second, integrating with any database via XML, and teaming with the company's Argon Exchange product to add variable content. This provides an effective way for companies such as financial services firms to provide full-color statements with extensive graphic and marketing information to their high-end customers. While such jobs are often run on Xerox print engines using VIPP or QuarkXPress and Darwin, the ability to use the reliability, easier handling and generally faster print speeds of PDF files with variable content has a lot of appeal. Job ticketing is part of the process, and jobs can be optimized for different print engine and designated for print, the Web or both. The process gives printers much more control over their manufacturing processes, which helps keeps those presses running efficiently. There was more at the show, and I'll cover some of that next time.