In the first part of this article, we noted that we were impressed while walking the aisles at Print 05, with a new product being shown at the Chuckwalla booth. What was most interesting was that it was really an integrated product from three small companies, coupled with significant technology from Kodak and Microsoft that made their task easier.
Chuckwalla introduced a new product called CSR Virtual. Although shown in the Chuckwalla booth, it was actually a product sold by a new joint venture, S-Mark. S-Mark is composed of Marcus Technology Inc., a solution provider and developer, S-Net, Inc., a Kodak Graphic Communications Group VAR, and Chuckwalla, Inc.
All of a sudden it made sense.
This wasn’t Distributors/Dealer’s Consolidating. It wasn’t Printers consolidating. It wasn’t products shown side by side, but three creative companies coming together to offer a complete workflow, rather than three products you needed to get separately, and test, to make sure that they ran well together. Unlike some of the JDF groups, collaborating and testing for the integration of disparate products to see if they really did run together, here, three courageous companies actually fielded (and sell) a joint product. It’s refreshing to see small technology companies that can understand and act together because of a common belief that they don’t know or can provide everything by themselves.
CSR Virtual brings together in one place:
- online collaboration,
- accurate color and
- digital asset management.
Design through Prepress production is simplified by automatically notifying users/designers of changes to their “assets”, or to their approval or production status. This creates a stronger link between customers, their designers and their production fulfillment companies. Tying customers in to their own asset utilization for production is something we understand. The process in this product consists of the following integrated components:
- Kodak RealTime Proof Partner
- Kodak MatchPrint Virtual proofing Solution
- S-Net B4 Proofing Approval Workflow
- Chuckwalla v5 Enterprise Digital Asset Management
- Microsoft .NET framework
Customers could now remotely view and approve specific prepress jobs via a single and understandable Web interface. The software automatically notifies appropriate users when their job’s status changes. For changes involving content or color, a SWOP certified capability shows how each color will reproduce on virtually any printable surface, with any ink model, or print line screen. Customers, Creatives and Production teams can work in each of their own native applications on their own computer platforms (Mac or PC). When the job is complete, all historical data, annotation, comments, approval information and other associated process information get archived with the job in the DAM architecture. This makes re-purposing, referencing and reporting possible within the single application. It also simplifies the approval and tracking process making approval cycles shorter for today’s rush world. THE EAGLE also liked the fact that all of the components that make up CSR Virtual are based on Microsoft .NET, Windows Server and SQL Server. The developing companies benefit from .NET's easy integration and their customers benefit from technology built on proven, open standards that is highly scalable. The result should be a much lower Total Cost of Ownership than if developed from scratch.
Because native standards are all supported and “convertible” to the application each user is most familiar with, training is minimal. The “Digital Proofing Portal” shows print jobs with approval status, image information, selected color profiles, and all user annotations. The “Digital Asset Portal” provides for secure web access to upload, search, browse, view, and download original or transformed files and to view and edit metadata. Between these views and their capabilities, workflow, tracking, and just plain viewing of current status and knowing what requires attention becomes a really straightforward process as well as simplifying the ability to find asset files of any kind.
We were impressed by the fully integrated approach presented by this team of companies. We’ve reported before on the integration from design through printer RIP to digital finishing because it showed how customers had the opportunity to buy a working solution through product integration. CSR Virtual brings this same kind of creativity to the “prepress” side of the business, through print. By being cognizant of each company’s core skills and not trying to do everything, and by taking advantage of the Microsoft technology that creates the opportunity for them to combine products more simply than with other means, the CSR Virtual team has put customer needs before NIH and company pride in their own technical capability.
Overall, THE EAGLE would like to encourage more companies to think customer needs, rather than their own technical creativity, and find the easiest ways to accomplish the needs of the customer. Perhaps each company might make more profit by having it all inside, however, bringing out a complete package early should allow the allied companies to increase market share more quickly, penetrate deeper into the customer organization, and sell more in the end. Everybody wins!