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IN THE 1970S and much of the '80s, the newspaper market was a focal point of extensive technological innovation in the publishing industry. That period was followed by a slowdown, and recent years have seen a dearth of exciting new developments, almost to the point where the newspaper market has appeared to be stagnating. The good news from this year's IFRA show in Lyon, France, Oct. 11-14, is that the intensity level is picking up again. As we look over the trends from this year's show, we find some interesting and important new directions. They will be the focus of our report from the show.
SAP takes new role. The most apparent new direction we saw was the arrival of SAP as a potential major player in the media software market, initially in the advertising and circulation area. (This role is in addition to its prominence in the controlling of financial transactions in back offices of newspapers.)
Groupware moves upmarket. The second item, which we have been monitoring for some time, was the slow move of editorial systems to an architecture built around standard groupware or intranet technologies. At IFRA, for the first time, we saw a major industry supplier introduce a strategy built around the use of Lotus Notes. This company, System Integrators, was covered in a recent article (see Vol. 28, No. 3), so little more will be said here.
One additional point that SII asked us to emphasize, though, is that the long-run strategy isn't limited to the components to be used in the first system. The system that has been demonstrated and discussed until now is built around Notes groupware technology and Adobe composition technology. However, SII plans to support other groupware environments and layout engines. SII specifically mentioned Xpress as a page layout engine that will be supported later through a "universal" pagination interface.
Climbing on the K2 bandwagon. Another direction that has begun to become apparent, although it will remain mostly hidden until early next year (and won't be discussed here), is a switch to the use of Adobe's new K2 technologies for page makeup and composition. If K2 progresses according to current expectations, we know of at least four companies that will move in this direction. In some cases K2 will replace the supplier's own pagination and composition engine. In other cases, it will replace Quark Xpress.
CTP flourishes. The European newspaper market is adopting computer-to-plate equipment to replace existing imagesetters. This is happening much faster in Europe than in other parts of the world. We estimate that about 200 CTP systems currently are in use in European newspaper operations.
Image manipulation. There can never be enough automation in the handling of images. At IFRA, we saw interesting developments here-particularly from Agfa and Binuscan-aimed at handling wire service photos and images from digital cameras.
The New Thrust of SAP
A year ago, if we recall correctly, just one supplier at IFRA showed the integration of its system with SAP technology, and SAP itself didn't mount its own exhibit. It was relying on its integrators to take their products to market. At that time, SAP had a reasonable-size media business, primarily in the German-speaking marketplace.
This year, SAP exhibited in its own right, through a joint venture with Heidelberg, and it also was represented in many other booths. Companies working with SAP in one way or another included Alfa Media Partner, CSC Cicero, LinoPress, Lufthansa Systems, MSH Medien System Haus and Pape+Partner Media. However, it was not just the presence of these companies that showed SAP's intent in this market; it was a general feeling in the market that there was something happening.
SAP's media thrust
What is SAP, and what is SAP attempting to do in the media industry? SAP is one of the largest software vendors in the world, and perhaps the leading large-scale, full-system supplier to a number of vertical markets. Applications based on its R3 technology cover the entire business-computing environment.
SAP builds its applications around standard relational databases, predominantly Oracle, and works with key software integration companies to supply complete solutions. The media industry is just one vertical market it addresses. In this market at this time, SAP is a relatively small player, but it has signaled its intention …