Quark has announced two new initiatives it hopes will silence critics and bring its customers closer.

Company-watchers will be aware of a change in the company's approach to its business since new CEO Kamar Aulakh took the helm in February 2004. Former CEO Fred Ebrahimi at that time said: "Kamar has a profound vision that will lead Quark into the future."

Since then, Quark has released an update to XPress (6.1), reintroduced its QuarkAlliance program; presented heavily discounted education pricing schemes; become involved in several industry groups, once again increased its presence in the UK and has relaxed usage rights in order that XPress users can install and activate their software on a second computer at no additional charge.

Building bridges to customers, developers, publishers

Senior Quark executive Jurgen Kurz told Macworld in November 2003 of the company's plans to bridge the distance that is perceived to exist between Quark and its customers.

Yesterday, Quark announced a new initiative designed to improves its developer relations, allying itself with outsourcing company XTended Services to "reinvigorate the QuarkAlliance XTensions developer program". That firm will manage and market the program.

Hundreds of QuarkXPress XTensions modules are available commercially from third-party developers, and Quark periodically releases its own Xtensions. These add extra features and utilities to the company's core product.

Quark's senior vice president of marketing Susan Friedman said: "Our goal with this is to give our XTensions developers a stronger advocate within Quark and a more passionate team to evangelize XTensions software to our customers."

XTended Services president Cyndie Shaffstall said: "As we re-ignite the QuarkAlliance XTensions program, we intend to be vocal, accessible, and motivated in the pursuit of getting our developers' products released and into our customers' XTensions folders."

Future standards matter

In a technology-focused initiative, Quark has joined the Networked Graphic Production (NGP) group, a collection of leading print industry vendors.

That group's stated goals are to develop "systems that reduce cycle times, minimize errors, automate production, increase productivity and make graphic production easier to understand". This initiative is based on Job Description Format (JDF) and other open standards.

"Quark's membership demonstrates our commitment to using technologies built on open standards to improve the workflows of millions of customers. We're working with other vendors to integrate QuarkXPress more tightly with digital presses, prepress and workflow systems," said Quark vice president Cliff Kaplan.