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Pompeii to play

April 22, 2002

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Burrow into The Gay Blade’s enclave. The Spork Boards

Fire in the hole! While Colorado hasn’t been a hotbed of volcanic activity since the dear dead days of Senator Thurmond’s youth, The Gay Blade’s recent column on cultural, geographic and strategic realignment at Quark elicited a molten stream of rumorological magma.

And like a porcine, perfumed version of the late, lamented Thor Heyerdahl, this utensil finds himself feverishly paddling these boiling currents in an effort to navigate between fact and fiction.

Specifically, the Blade has been following up on an internal Quark document of debatable provenance that floated into the burrow shortly after his initial installment. The correspondence, purportedly originally directed at Quark’s Dear Leader, Fred Ebrahimi, painted a doleful picture of the market performance of the recently released QuarkXPress 5.0.

Talking points in this alleged Quark document include the nugget that upgrade sales of XPress 5.0 have been less than 2 percent of the installed user base in the United States and less than 1 percent abroad, compared with an upgrade target of 20 percent by April 1. Other allegations focused on customer dissatisfaction with Quark’s sales and support and concerns about the lack of versions tuned to Mac OS X and Windows XP.

The Blade’s uncharacteristic squeamishness regarding the specifics of this particular communication stems from his inability thus far to confirm its existence independently. While his early cheerleading career may have trained him to leap first and ask questions later, he’s not convinced that this specific missive isn’t a ruse concocted by a bored competitor or one of Quark’s fast-growing population of disgruntled ex-employees.

Nevertheless, his preternaturally sensitive incisors have received decisive confirmation of many of the salient points contained within: There is a howling void between projected Xpress 5.0 sales and reality, those few users who have purchased are complaining about an inordinate number of bugs, and drastic cuts to Quark’s marketing department has seriously limited the company’s ability to reach out and touch its installed base.

Sweet steaming Pele at a hukilau! That’s gotta hurt.

Internal Combustion

And on other software fronts, the Blade offers up this toothsome coda from the Discreet division of Autodesk Inc. According to the Blade’s sweaty gang of wage slaves, Discreet marked completion of Combustion 2 (the upgrade to its paint, animation and 3D compositing software that shipped in January) in much the same way that the pharaohs commemorated the completion of a major tomb-building project: by eliminating the builders.

The company reportedly closed down its Southern California software-engineering offices and offered its employees the choice between relocating to its Montréal headquarters or facing le chômage. All but one of the developers quit – and were promptly hired by Apple.

Indeed, the Mothership seems to have been hovering above these particular geographical coordinates with its transporters at the ready: The Blade’s moles report the Combustion group was housed in the same building as Nothing Real, the Venice, Calif., maker of compositing software Apple purchased in February.

Hey! That’s not poi. Dish to The NMR Report, and a hot pink mole rat could be in your future!

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