Desktop Program Holds Promise

San Diego County Business Editor

Desktop publishing, the process by which printed pages are composed and typeset on a personal computer monitor, is a communications revolution that continues to have ripple effects on San Diego companies.

Take Pre-Press Technologies of Carlsbad, one of several local companies to have developed desktop publishing software products in recent years. Formed less than two years ago, Pre-Press Technologies has developed a unique software program that has drawn favorable reviews in the computer trade press and considerable attention at desktop publishing shows.

If Pre-Press Technologies President Joseph Mintz's scenario plays out, the product will lift the company up to the multimillion-dollar sales plateau next year.

Color Separations

The product is called SpectrePrint, and it enables desktop publishers to generate color separations or break down color photographs into four basic ink colors for printing purposes, Mintz said Monday.

The system also lets desktop publishers compose page layouts on the same pages as the color separations, thus saving them the high manual labor cost of "stripping in" images and type on a page layout. That can be a significant savings in light of the fact that the labor-intensive "stripping in" can represent up to 25% of color printing costs.

Mintz, who co-founded the company with Franz Herbert, said Pre-Press Technologies revenue this fiscal year should top $1 million, up from $100,000 last year. If a new product to be introduced next month at the popular Seybold desktop publishing trade show takes off as Mintz expects, the company's sales could exceed several million dollars in 1990, he said.

"Pre-Press is one of the few companies developing color-separation software for what promises to be a growing market," said Mark Walter, associate editor of Seybold Report on Publishing Systems, an industry newsletter based in Media, Pa. "It breaks new ground in making color separations affordable to a new class of users."

Pre-Press employs 13 people in its plant near the Palomar Airport and will hire 13 to 15 more by the end of this year, Mintz said.

Professional Clientele

So far, Pre-Press has sold about 200 copies of its software, mainly to the professional publishing market, including newspapers, print shops and graphic designers. The market has been limited to professional shops because the color-separation process still requires expensive hardware and adjustments that only printing professionals can manage, said Herbert, who is the company's vice president of engineering.

Among Pre-Press' customers are half a dozen newspapers, including the Kansas City Star, Dallas Times Herald and San Francisco Examiner, who use the product in color page composition.

"It saves us a lot of time in our pre-press work, which involves producing the color-separation films necessary to print the daily newspaper in color," said John Seibt, quality assurance manager at the Dallas Times Herald. He estimated that Pre-Press Technologies' software will save his newspaper at least $100,000 in labor costs this year.

But the introduction of SpectreSeps next month at the Seybold show could expose the product to a much broader market, Mintz said. SpectreSeps will be a much simplified version of SpectrePrint and will enable amateur desktop publishers to perform the separations at the push of a button.

The new product should appeal to corporate desktop publishers and smaller printing operations for whom the savings from stripping-in costs more than compensate for the inevitable loss in color quality that results when professional color separations are bypassed.

Mintz said he estimates conservatively that Pre-Press could sell 25,000 to 50,000 copies of the $495-per-copy SpectreSeps. Mintz acknowledges that, although his company may for the moment be the desktop publishing leader, many competitors will soon invade the color-separation market.

Mintz and Herbert met in the early 1980s at Superset, a San Diego computer graphics company, and later worked together at American Film Technologies, a film colorization company Mintz helped establish. Mintz resigned from AFT in November, 1987, and is now involved in a legal dispute with his former employer over his employment contract and ownership of AFT technology.

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