A topic of continuing debate
By Jake Widman
All agreed that whatever advantage Adobe might have wasn't based on any sneaky tricks. As Bruno put it, there's no "secret sauce," and Ford concurred, saying that "they do a very good job of making the specifications available to other people." But, Bruno continued, while there's really no magic in generating a PostScript file, "it is a bit of an art," and that's where he sees Adobe as having an advantage. After 20 years of working on both the PostScript- or PDF-generating end and the RIP end of the workflow, Adobe has a suite of core software libraries that are used and reused across all their product lines. An Adobe RIP is built from core components that have been tested and retested over the years--and then their OEMs and licensees have to submit any product incorporating an Adobe RIP back to Adobe for further testing and certification.
This makes a big difference to Hogrefe and Rauscher, because it means they don't have to do as much developing and testing themselves. "Anything I can do to take headaches out of the way--that I don't have to back-figure--allows us to focus on the solution," said Hogrefe. "It's hard to argue with the effort Adobe makes," concurred Rauscher.
By contrast. Parsons asserted that "it's more of a marketing argument than a technical one." No workflow is perfect, he said--even an all-Adobe one. For instance, Adobe fans like to argue that having the same RIP in your proofer as in your platesetter makes for a more reliable proof; but, Parsons argued, you're talking about two different imaging technologies anyway, so the value of a consistent RIP is mostly theoretical.
Global's Ford went so far as to suggest that a non-Adobe RIP could even be an improvement. "As a clone, we have to be lot better," he said. He cites the 600 pages of documented Harlequin extensions to PostScript that enable products based on his company's RIPs to do things beyond PostScript's capabilities.
There's no way I can answer this question in my allotted 500 words, or even the 750 words this particular column has ballooned to. The only real answers can come from the kind of testing Adobe and other RIP makers--and their licensees and OEMs--do and from the real-world experience of their customers.
But I finally realized that Adobe has an advantage just in the way the question gets framed. It's like the conversation a friend and I were having about Raisin Bran the other day. She had a box of Kellogg's, and I had some brand I'd never heard of before that I'd picked up at Target. We were discussing whether mine was as good as hers, but even if it was--even if it was better, in fact--we'd still be asking if Archer Farms was as good as Kellogg's--not whether Kellogg's was as good as Archer Farms.