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APT signs with DEC, AISI
Advanced Publishing Technology got a real shot in the arm with the announcement of a strategic marketing alliance with Digital Equipment. The two companies signed an agreement under which DEC will sell, integrate and support the full range of APT products, including editorial, classified and accounting applications. APT's system, called ACT, runs under NT with a Microsoft SQL database. DEC Alpha servers will be used.
APT said the target market will be systems "appropriate for newspapers of all sizes." Until now, APT systems have tended to serve small newspapers. The average system sold to date is about ten terminals. (That is, APT has sold more than 50 systems with a total of more than 500 user stations.)
DEC, which said it had decided to pursue this alliance as a result of requests by its customers, will provide workflow design, equipment staging, format and macro development, operational procedures, training and support. The first sale has already been made, as we note below under DEC.
Product enhancements. On the product front, the main news was incremental enhancements in all application areas. For the classified system, it is possible to enter upselling prompts based on publication, section, zone and classification. The user requests a window and types the prompts into it. Other changes center on ease of use, such as automatic insertion of phone numbers and borders around ads.
In addition, the rate structure has been bolstered by enabling the operator to quote rates by publication.
APT reported that six of its customers are using its classified pagination program, which has added some new features. Among them is the ability to look ahead or back within the current classification to try to find better column breaks.
For editorial and layout applications, ACT tools now provide macros to streamline the performing of repetitive tasks.
To aid in laying out pages, APT will introduce a photo editor that enables the operator to drag a photo to a page and drop it in place.
AISI deal. APT also signed a deal with Associated Information Systems International (AISI) to integrate APT products into AISI publishing platforms. AISI will provide services including equipment assembly and staging, installation planning, on-site hardware support and network training. AISI's integration customers in the newspaper industry include the Denver Post, the Houston Chronicle, Cheyenne Newspapers Inc., the Baltimore Sun, the San Francisco Newspaper Agency, the Artesia Daily Press, and more than 100 others.
AISI also has agreements to supply Archetype InterSep OPI and MediaBank products, Compose RIPS based on Harlequin ScriptWorks interpreters, and Seiko color printers. With APT front-end systems, it now can integrate complete systems, from input to output.
AISI, phone (916) 888-6459, fax (916) 888-8313; firstname.lastname@example.org, www.aisipub.com.
ATS targets SII users; set with Advisor
The first show under new president Al Edwards was an important one for Advanced Technical Solutions. Edwards brought with him many ideas that have been brewing since he departed from the system business five years ago. First among them is to change the image of ATS. Instead of being a company that lives off whichever Atex customers aren't satisfied by Atex's own products, Edwards would like ATS to concentrate on attracting two different groups: non-Atex customers and-you guessed it-System Integrators customers.
And there can be no doubt that he has begun targeting SII customers. For starters, he signed a reseller agreement with Tandem Computers and will offer Tandem CPUs as the foundation of a parallel product offering. There are no customers installed or signed up yet for the new product, and ATS will use the first customer to drive the product development. And there was nothing to see at the show regarding this new direction. However, Edwards did present some clues on how he will proceed from here.
Foundation. The new product will be based on the NonStop Himalaya S7000 and S70000 servers. The surprise is that ATS intends to run these under their native operating system, Guardian. ATS feels this is less of an issue today, now that the system is fully ODBC compliant. The plan is to run under NT by next year. ATS feels the move to Tandems would require little programming; the existing code should run unmodified.
We think this is stretching the point, but the tools for migration from one platform to another are getting much better. This will be a good test case. To make it a bit easier, ATS will run all of its peripheral applications, such as wire service handling and remote terminal support, on PCs connected to the network. The Tandems will be used purely for database applications. From there ATS would like to create an NT client version of this Tandem-based product and sell it to frustrated, existing SII users.
Advisor. At last year's show, ATS previewed its own advertising system, Advisor. Since then it has installed the product in San Juan, its beta site, and released it for sale in the U.S. It was on display in final format at this year's Nexpo. In Puerto Rico, ATS took the newspaper El Nuevo live with 50 terminals. The newspaper has now ordered a 100-terminal editorial system from ATS, replacing its 15-year-old Atex system.
The product uses many off-the-shelf components such as Word as its editor, Excel and Crystal Reports. It is based on a Sybase SQL database and has a full, 32-bit Windows client (95 or NT).
Advisor has a lot of the features we have come to expect in a modern advertising system:
? Automatic default ad scheduling (for the next publication day for the publications selected).
? Mouse and calendar scheduling (although Advisor, following Atex customers, also supports the older command-line approach).
? Status information about advertising in a workflow process.
? Automatic routing and verifications.
? Prompts and upselling capabilities, which were missing from the version we saw last year.
Editorial. On the editorial side, ATS is getting closer to other vendors in using more standard tools, particularly in the pagination area. ATS offers two approaches for pagination: Quark Xpress and its own proprietary QuickLayout program. It is now possible to pour a document from QuickLayout into Xpress for refinement and completion (very similar to the way Hyphen originally interfaced it own layout tool with Xpress).
This gives the operator the option of using QuickLayout for the basic pages, where its limitations are overcome by its speed advantage against laying out pages with Xpress, and using Xpress for more complicated, design-intensive pages. Both layout approaches can be combined in a Quark environment. Editors also can use Acrobat as a soft-proofing tool in conjunction with QuickLayout. As another benefit in working in a mixed environment, ATS has added the feature that causes any changes made to Quark documents (pages) to be reflected in its database. For ATS, database means any ODBC-compliant database such as Oracle or Sybase.
The Web and the market. Like most system vendors, ATS is not totally ignoring the Web. It has created its own links, allowing a piece of copy written and viewed on an ATS system to be sent and viewed on the Web via Future Tense's Texture. ATS is one of those companies adhering to the separation of form and content to make the integration of alternative output systems (like Texture) easier.
In addition to targeting SII customers as well as Atex users, ATS is attempting to convert its Agile-based customers to its new NewsDesk product. (ATS had a cooperative arrangement with Agile under which Agile supplied the main editorial component of ATS systems. They later broke off the arrangement.) ATS told us that one of the four Agile sites installed by ATS has made a commitment to convert to the ATS system.
Agile completes Mac port
Agile Enterprise focused on progress on the product front, where it formally unveiled the Macintosh version of its application and introduced some new tools. Also in the news was the disclosure of a new customer with rather different requirements from standard newspaper and magazine clients. Agile has ported all of its standard applications (including the layout tools) to the Macintosh. (It had been available only on the PC.) The Mac product has now been released and installed at Newsweek.
Layout tools. The layout tools, which were not complete at last year's show, have been installed at a couple of newspaper sites. Pages can now be selected from directories, where the status can be changed. The status conditions are completely customizable, reflecting page and element conditions such as drawn, assigned, in process, proof and finished. Therefore, it is possible now to build selective directories in Excel (or show them in chart form) to reflect the degree of completeness of a publication.
The screen formats are customizable as well. Agile uses Visual Basic for customization of the look and feel of the screens and for validation routines. Agile has created a Quark Xtension for incorporating Layout-8000 dummies directly into Xpress pages. The Xtension creates the page in Xpress (individual pages, not documents), adds the appropriate folios, and provides unique templates for each page.
Agile Page. In the new layout tool, called Agile Page, the system stores individual …