Curated content for content, computing, and digital experience professionsals

Month: May 2006 (Page 1 of 6)

Hummingbird Acquisition: Open Door or Not?

See updated links for 5/30 and 5/31 below.
Friday was a busy day and I did not see the press release on the Hummingbird acqusition until about 3pm. Curiousity killed that cat and I took some time to listen to the archived conference call (find the number in the “Conference Call” section of the Hummingbird press release.)

I got more than I bargained for on a Friday afternoon. Not surprised to find an audience of financial analysts, I was more than a bit surprised to hear comments such as “stunned,” “ridiculous,” and “questionable as to fiduciary responsibility.” Cetainly, many of the financial analysts asked (redundant) questions in the manner that reporters would use, i.e. slow, steady, and determined to get an answer. Others however, were quite more emotional than I’ve ever experienced from an acquisition- or earnings-type call — or from financial analysts for that matter. Some analysts advised shareholders to “vote against this” with vigor. It got so interesting that I realized I had listened to the entire call without intending to.

I must say I too was “stunned” at the announcement because the acquisition was not a technology to technology play. I have followed Hummingbird for years and think they have done a great job educating the market on ECM as well as expanding a very tangible beachhead in the legal vertical. So *my* stunned was that I thought it would be… well, just someone else! Just who is Symphony Technology Group? According to their Web site, it is a strategic holding company. According to Hummingbird, it was the only *serious* bidder they spoke to about an acquisition and talks began in February.

The “open door or not” title describes the crux of the emotion on the part of the financial analysts. In essence, Hummingbird described a process in which Symphony approached Hummingbird. Hummingbird did not solicit other bids from other financial or technology vendors. At the same time however, Hummingbird was repeatedly adament at stating that Symphony was the only serious bidder. Clearly there was at least one more.

In response to repeated analysts’ opinions that the valuation was extremely low, that the company was worth far more, and that the bidding process should have been more open, the Hummingbird response was: “The door is now open, other bidders can come to the table; we were not shopping – we did not put ourselves on the block.” The “or not” part of the “is the door open?” question is that simultaneously, Hummingbird stated that the process will move swiftly and the company is confident that Sympony has no other technology company holdings that overlap Hummingbird’s expertise in ECM. Also according to Hummingbird, “nothing has changed in our company” and there are no management contracts in place with Symphony for the deal.

The documents on full disclosure on the details will be available tomorrow, Tues 5/30, according to Hummingbird. I am sure more blog entries will add to my report. I’ll update this entry with links I find tomorrow.

Reuters has weighed in…

Tony Byrne from CMSWatch has weighed in…

Tuesday 5/30 Update:
Computer Business Review Online has weighed in…

Wednesday 5/31 Update:
Canada.com’s National Post has weighed in… Note the quote “Fred Sorkin and Barry Litwin, Hummingbird’s chairman and chief executive, respectively, own about 12% of the outstanding shares and don’t want the company bought by another technology firm. The company might cut [our] products,” said Mr. Sorkin, although all offers will be entertained. This leads to distraction and lack of value creation.”

Arrangement Agreement Papers Available… The site is www.sedar.com, “the official site that provides access to most public securities documents and information filed by public companies and investment funds with the Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA) in the SEDAR filing system.” Search for Public Companies = Hummingbird + Date Filed = May 26,2006 if you are interested. Curiously, the Document Type is listed as “Other”.

If You Build It, Will They Come?

On May 9, I was one of several speakers at an Innodata-Isogen event, “Future Tense – Emerging Trends in Publishing Workflow Management.” They have now posted the presentations and accompanying podcasts. Registration is required, but there are a number of interesting presentations and case studies, including ones from The New Yorker, Houghton Mifflin, Time Out New York, and Harvard Business School Publishing.

The Importance of QuarkXPress 7.0

(Full disclosure: I’ve consulted many times with Quark and with Adobe, and was specifically hired by Quark to prepare a brochure called QuarkXPress 7 for Output Service Providers.)

I think that QuarkXPress 7 is an important release for Quark, its customers, Adobe and the publishing industry. We’re well past the days of “feature wars,” so, for example, the addition of OpenType support, something first offered in InDesign 1.5 five years ago, is not shaking my world. There is also new support for transparency, improved color management and PDF support, and various other goodies that you’d expect to find in your Christmas stocking, but none of these are anything much more than “overdue.”

What’s most important from my perspective is Quark’s forward strides in supporting improved publishing workflows, the last frontier for the electronic publishing industry. Two new features stand out in this respect. One is “Job Jackets” and the other is JDF (Job Definition Format) support.

According to CIP4 (www.cip4.org) the non-profit industry association pushing JDF, “JDF is a comprehensive XML-based file format and proposed industry standard for end-to-end job ticket specifications combined with a message description standard and message interchange protocol.” Along with its earlier incarnations, JDF has been in the making for more than 15 years now. It has very broad industry support – hundreds of vendors have added JDF functionality to hundreds of hardware and software products. That being said, it’s still a challenge to find a robust JDF-based publishing installation in the field. The main reasons for this are the complexity of the standard and the need for all of the players in a broad publishing workflow to be in the game – if one key component lacks support the JDF flow grinds to a halt.

Adobe have added JDF support to Acrobat, which is to some extent accessible from InDesign, but Quark has moved ahead of Adobe by building JDF support directly into the page layout application, independently from PDF. No doubt Adobe will follow suit in the next version of InDesign, expected early next year, so the issue is not so much who got there first. But having what is still the mostly widely-used page layout application in the world throw its support behind JDF is of key importance at this time when broad-based JDF adoption by the publishing industry is still in question.

Quark uses JDF also in its Job Jackets feature. A Quark Job Jackets file contains all of the rules and specifications necessary to describe a QuarkXPress project. A Quark Job Jackets file can include specifications for colors, style sheets, trapping, and color management as well as picture color space, format, and resolution. The file can also include information such as the page size, number of pages, and contact information for the people involved with a job. And the file can include rules that specify configurations for font sizes, line thicknesses, box backgrounds, and other project elements. Workgroups can obtain consistent output by using Quark Job Jackets to share specifications across workstations.

For me the most intriguing benefit of Quark Job Jackets is that it re-invents the concept of preflighting. Preflighting has always been a post-process step: create your file, and then find out where you screwed up. With Job Jackets users can ensure that a print job adheres to its specifications from the moment it’s created, and that it continues to adhere to those specifications all the way through the production process until it rolls off the press. I’ve long maintained that page designers would not be able to perfect their process until it was possible to prevent errors, rather than to correct them after the fact. I’m certain this approach will fast become the production norm.

It’s interesting to me that searching through Google News the day after the Quark 7.0 launch in New York, there’s nary a mention in the mainstream press. Neither the New York Times nor the Wall Street Journal seem to have found it worthy of coverage. To me this reflects the new prevailing “wisdom”: Adobe has won the page-layout wars (and every other war for that matter), so Quark’s announcement isn’t newsworthy. I think they are underestimating the importance of QuarkXPress 7.0. Only time will tell.

Quark 7.0 is Out, But Does Anyone Care?

Our news includes some details about the launch of QuarkXPress 7.0, but I have to ask if this is at all significant to the desktop publishing world at this point. Most–maybe even all–publishers I work with have made the move to Adobe InDesign. Some publishers are holding on to a few licenses of QuarkXPress for older books and products that might need to be updated, but all new products are being done using InDesign. Moreover, Adobe Creative Suite, which combines InDesign, Illustrator, PhotoShop, and other products, is simply too attractive an offering with very attractive pricing. Quark has nothing comparable to counter with.
For larger publishers, there are also very viable workgroup options with InDesign, which wasn’t true a few years ago. The combination of InDesign with InCopy for writers and editors is gaining traction, and there solutions such as K4 from Managing Editor and Smart Connection Enterprise from Woodwing for larger groups. These systems are often replacing Quark’s QPS solution as the publishers drop QuarkXPress for InDesign.
Quark 6.0 took forever to come out. Quark 7.0 took forever to come out. In the meantime, InDesign has really taken hold. So I have my doubts that Quark can overcome this.
Finally, there is a cautionary tale in all of this. Quark was famously arrogant in its heyday, and did a lot to alienate customers. When I wrote about the movement to InDesign for The Seybold Report in December 2004 (subscription required), industry maven Kate Binder said, “Never discount people’s absolute, bitter hatred of Quark the company. It’s genuinely a factor.”

Why Government Technology matters to you

Well of course there are lots of obvious reasons it matters. But what is under-appreciated by many of us in the private sector is how often the government leads the way in developing, fostering and exploiting technology. This is especially true with information technology. The reason is simple: they have a bigger information management problem than anyone else combined with more resources than anyone else. For example, the US (as well as other governments) were building sophisticated markup-based content management, and electronic publishing applications a decade before the Web and browsers existed. While many of those SGML and electronic technical manual applications may seem primitive today, they were very forward-thinking and advanced then, and provided valuable lessons for today’s HTML and XML applications. Also, it is arguable that the entire (non-Google) search technology industry has been kept on life support for the last 20 years because of government investment.
So paying attention to government information technology initiatives is something all IT strategists should be doing. For our June 13-15 conference on government technologies in Washington, Conference Chair Tony Byrne is gathering a broad range of government speakers and experts who have, and are, building powerful content applications. It is a great place to get up-to-speed.
Speakers include:
GAO, FAA, NASA, FirstGov, Navy, Forest Service, EPA, OMB, World Bank,
PostNewsweek Tech Media, NPR, Government Computer News, White House,
GPO, International Trade Commission, Department of Energy, Social
Security Administration, DOT, and many more.
Topics include:
Content management, enterprise search, XML, business cases, content
modeling, open source CMS, best practices, records management, content
security, publishing, text mining, and new technologies being used for
government applications including blogs, wikis, RSS and Podcasting.
The full program is at:

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