Where is the Aldus Pagemaker for the Cloud?

In light of the last day and a half revelations and discussions about Google’s Chrome browser, I’ve been thinking about comparisons of technological shifts in the past and how empowering tools sparked innovation, creativity, and new businesses.

In the late 1980’s, I was the proud owner of a Macintosh SE/30, a Laserwriter printer, and a copy of Aldus Pagemaker. The desktop publishing (DTP) revolution was in full swing, based in no small measure to the brilliance John Warnock and Chuck Geschke brought forth PostScript as the foundation for a company called Adobe, and perhaps the key enabler of the tools above to replicate digitally what was previously performed on much more expensive equipment.

My bride and I took her knowledge and trend forecasting expertise for the home furnishings industry, coupled it with the above-named technologies (and a bunch of books on type, design and more!) and we collaborated on mockups of a newsletter and created a new business now 21 years old with content publishing at its core.

Had it not been for the enabling tools — not cheap at the time and we had about $7-$8k invested — and an industry quickly reacting to the demand from all these suddenly empowered nouveau publishers, I argue that the Web as a publishing paradigm wouldn’t have evolved as quickly as it has since millions wouldn’t have been ready to create and deliver content and communications digitally.

As I discussed in yesterday’s post about the Chrome announcement, new, revolutionary ‘publishing’ paradigms are on the scene with Adobe AIR, Microsoft Silverlight, Mozilla Prism, coupled with what is likely to appear delivered inside Chrome due to WebKit (and SproutCore).

But where is the “Aldus Pagemaker for the Cloud” that will give some technoweenie and his bride today the opportunity to create a completely new business?

Reading Ryan Stewart today (Adobe Evangelist for AIR) and his pointer to Chris Messina’s post with Chris’ take on the future of the browser, I couldn’t help but realize that they’re both focused on something akin to a shift in “printing infrastructure”.

No question that the internet is the new platform and infrastructure. Web services delivering application functionality and content has already exploded and mashups and API’s are “table stakes” to be in the game if you’re a provider online. Human connection and communications online have already become as important as the telephone 50 years ago or the fax machine in the 1980’s.

The DTP revolution was NOT focused upon PostScript, replacing Linotype machines, cost reductions since you could output digitally instead of going to film, and templates to quickly create brochures and newsletters. All that happened, but the zeitgeist of the time was focused on one thing:

The democratization of publishing.

THAT was the point and the key to it all, the hub, was Aldus Pagemaker. For quite modest investments, one could bring in creation and delivery equipment (and that software) in to a corporate department and begin to deliver high quality, lower cost publications and communicate in new ways. Or, in our case, create a new business in your basement.

What I have only begun to see are tools from Microsoft like Expression (disclaimer: my buddy, Doug Olson, is the GM of the group that delivers that toolset or ones from Adobe like these.

Microsoft is positioning Expression as a toolset to bring together designers and developers so a designed mockup can be ‘wired together’ by the developers into a seamless application, but lacks most of the tools designers use (e.g., Photoshop) and nearly all of them I know use Mac’s and Expression runs only on Windows.

Adobe, on the other hand, has a multitude of tools like Flex and extensions for Dreamweaver and Flash Professional and, most importantly, enjoys a company-wide complete grokking of the design community, the tools, and what designers want, need and demand from a toolset. Looks like Adobe CS4 (the next version of their Creative Suite) will include an enhanced Dreamweaver with, “Adobe® AIR authoring support: Create multiplatform desktop applications from your Dreamweaver HTML and JavaScript sites with new Adobe AIR authoring support.

Adobe’s products run on both Mac’s and Windows. You can download the beta of Dreamweaver here).

Aldus Pagemaker was complex. Back in the late 1980’s, there were zillions of little “gotchas” that made using it — and not having your service bureau folks HATE YOU since you made stupid, DTP-newbie mistakes — a challenge. One could argue that Expression, Dreamweaver, Flex and Flash authoring is a magnitude of complexity beyond Pagemaker, but remember, DTP was a completely new cognitive paradigm that people had to understand and grasp. We can handle much more conceptually and higher levels of software complexity today, both from an understanding perspective and a tools perspective.

Still, I don’t see an Aldus Pagemaker for the cloud….yet….but we’re close.

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