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Quark II: The Empire Strikes Back

by Graham Needham (BH) on 24th June 2013

We recently blogged about our experience of trying to buy QuarkXPress software. We noted how Quark were once the bad boys of software, how Adobe were recently vying for that position and our hope that Quark could change. How wrong we were…

We actually spoke to Gavin Drake, Vice President of Marketing at Quark on the afternoon of Friday 14th June. We had an interesting conversation about our awful experience of simply trying to buy their software and Gavin made the usual marketing noises about the company being proactive, promising to change things and taking our comments on board. We left that conversation feeling a little bit better about Quark - Adobe were now the real bad boys! Then, less than one week later, on Thursday 20th June we received a blanket marketing email to all their customers (well maybe one subset of their customers as their customers are registered in multiple databases) from Gavin Drake himself announcing a change of policy on upgrades. Here is the first part of that email:

Dear Customer,

I’m personally writing to you in order to inform you about an important policy change and how this will impact you.

From 1st July 2013, Quark Software will only support upgrading from one previous version of QuarkXPress to the current version.

Impact for QuarkXPress 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 users
By now you will have seen many communications around the One Price Promotion, which enables you to upgrade to QuarkXPress 9 from ANY previous version. Currently you also get QuarkXPress 10 for free when you upgrade. It is almost unprecedented in the industry to provide an upgrade path from such legacy versions of a software product. We have provided this upgrade path for the last 2 upgrade cycles and this will be the last time. The promotion is coming to end on 30th June 2013. As per the above, from 1st July 2013, your licenses will no longer be eligible to be upgraded to QuarkXPress 9 or 10.

Impact for QuarkXPress 8 users
You may have read that QuarkXPress 10 is on the way and will ship in August. Once QuarkXPress 10 is available, QuarkXPress 8 will no longer be eligible for an upgrade. That means you have a limited window of time to upgrade to QuarkXPress 9 and stay current. If you upgrade to QuarkXPress 9 now, you’ll also receive QuarkXPress 10 for free.
Dave Dahl (on Macintouch) was quick off the mark with his response:
Quark pulls another historically stupid marketing move today.

Given Adobe's Cloud Confusion, I've heard people actually mentioning Quark as an option again. You'd think Quark might use Adobe chaos to give former Quark users reason to blow dust off the old Express box and upgrade. For nearly a year they have eased memories of their past mistakes by allowing upgrades from any previous version (3,4,5,6,7,8) to version 9 with a promise of a free upgrade to 10. It almost seemed Quark changed into a reasonable company and wanted customers back. Almost...

Today I received an announcement from Gavin Drake, VP of Marketing? As of July 1, 2013, no older versions of Quark are upgradable at all. Only from current version 9 can you upgrade to version 10. So anyone who jumped to InDesign over a year ago has no upgrade path and must purchase Quark Express at full price again. So, our option is in the next 10 days to decide to upgrade the older version 9 in hopes we can upgrade to 10 when it comes out. Otherwise, see ya later. What a Quarked up mess... again. Deja vu.

Dave hits the nail on the head with his comments. Quark just made a really stupid move. We fully understand that software companies might want to maximise their return on investment for software development i.e. for purely financial reasons, force people into purchasing regular software upgrades. There is no technical reason for this - it's purely financial. With Adobe's recent move to a subscription only model the timing of Quark's policy change can only be attributed to one of the following reasons:

a) Total and utter stupidity
b) A cash grab

Quark must believe that all those Adobe/InDesign users that don't want to be forced to pay the Adobe Creative Cloud tax will pop on over to Quark and pay full price (£800+VAT in the UK) per licence. Let's face it, there will be a significant number of old school designers/businesses that dropped Quark for InDesign in the 00s - they may have an old version of Quark but definitely won't have Quark v9. Then there are all the newer users who came on board with InDesign but will now want to switch - they won't have any licence of Quark. So, Quark's decision has to have been made purely around money because every one of those users does not have Quark v9 and now have to pay full price. The stupid thing here is that Quark could actually do the opposite and gain many, many more customers and probably more money (in the long run). For the next 1-2 years they really should offer two upgrade paths:

  1. Upgrade from ANY version of Quark to the current Quark at a set price. Or if really necessary weight the upgrade price based on the version the user has - this would bring on board all those that jumped ship to InDesign.
  2. Cross grade from ANY version of InDesign to the current Quark at a set price. Or if really necessary weight the upgrade price based on the version of InDesign that the user has - this would bring on board all those that started on InDesign in the last decade and now want to move away from Adobe.
These two offers made available for a year or two would have a significant impact on the number of users buying and using QuarkXPress and most importantly for Quark a lot of the users would be moving from Adobe to Quark!

Let's take a look at some simple maths (all numbers UK based, excluding VAT). Lenient upgrade/cross-grade policy:

  • 5 users = one product from Adobe (InDesign) £14.65 per month = £175.80 per user (total of £879 per year)
  • 5 users = upgrade Quark (or potential cross-grade† if offered) £299 per user (total of £1495 outright)
† - additional benefit includes stealing Adobe's customers

New upgrade policy:
  • 5 users = one product from Adobe (InDesign) £14.65 per month = £175.80 per user (total of £879 per year)
  • 5 user = full purchase £799 per user (total of £3995 outright)

That's a staggering difference and totally off-putting to users/businesses. The actual comparison is that the cost of Quark would actually pay for four (4) year's worth of Creative Cloud (assuming Adobe don't put the price up). As we've already pointed out there are two issues with Creative Cloud and one of them is cost. Quark just killed that issue dead leaving lock-in as the only remaining issue! Adobe users will do the maths and see that Quark is not a viable option.

Software companies need to understand their users and not treat them just as a number with total disrespect. Fleecing them for money, betraying their trust and releasing shoddy products is not the way to go about it - this is exactly what Quark have done in the past and clearly are still intent on doing now. It's definitely time to start spending your time and money with an alternative:

Blog Post Author = Graham Needham (BH)
Blog Post Created On = 24th June 2013
Blog Post Last Revised = 25th January 2018 12:42
Blog Post URL =

This blog post is representative of the blog author's individual opinions and as such any opinions that may be expressed here may not necessarily reflect the views of everyone at MacStrategy or the holding company Burning Helix.

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