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   RE: [xml-dev] Arbortext bought

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From: Paul Prescod [mailto:paul@prescod.net]

Bullard, Claude L (Len) wrote:
>> XML won, so Arbortext has to merge or die. 

>I would appreciate if you could back up that assertion. For example if 
>you could outline a concrete scenario where Arbortext would have been 
>killed (by whom?) had they not merged. This is of more than academic 
>interest to me as an employee of Blast Radius XMetaL.

Because any large system sale for office production tools now includes 
the kinds of features that formerly only markup-based systems had in 
good working order.   The problem is what it was for browsers:  any 
really good feature eventually gets absorbed into the desktop and 
workflow production and communication tools are top of the target list. 
A standalone document management system company isn't a good play for 
market share.  Will niche players exist?  They always do but Arbortext 
wanted to be more than that, and being allied to a CAD company emphasizing 
integrated engineering tools is one way to differentiate their offering 
from the big three.  In short, it was time for investors to take their 

>My impression is that Arbortext was as successful and stable as they 
>have ever been. One of the financial details that has been released 
>since the announcement is this: product prices had been RISING at the 
>same time that their sales volume was rising. It does not sound like a 
>company on death's door.

Everything and everyone dies.  That isn't the point:  good business managers
make acquisitions while a company has decent market share and a synergy 
story.  Perhaps we shouldn't think of this as death but ascendance if that 
makes it more palatable.   Another growth strategy would have been to take 
over an adjacent niche, and while I'm not familiar with Arbortext's books, 
I didn't see them as 'in the market for acquisitions'.

>Even if this is xml-dev, I think you are rather markup obsessed. XML is 
>the new ASCII. Arbortext was in the business of content creation and 
>publishing. They were not (as of 2005) in the business of markup any 
>more than BEA is in the business of HTTP or Sun is in the business of 

Fair enough.  But they made their bones based on their SGML competencies 
in a time of WYSIWYG and CASE.  It's fair to say that markup is at the 
core of their success.  Trouble is, that isn't enough now that markup 
is 'the new ASCII' anymore than good blues chops are enough in an 
era of jazz.  Content management is a must have so it is mainstream 
and that makes it a commodity.  Services?  Still marketable but moreso 
with a deeper content edge such as CAD.  Keep in mind: welding logistics 
seamlessly to computer-aided design was the whole goal of CALS initially. 
There is a lot of productivity and quality gain to be had there and almost 
twenty years after the birth of Computer-aided Acquisition and Logistics, 
the goal has barely been met.  This is an evolutionary step for ArborText 
and a good business move given their traditional customers.

Is XML the 'new ASCII'? 

I've said that myself and heard it often, but I think an 
interesting topic.   XML 1.0 seems to be a bit more than 
that, and the XML families of application technologies are definitely 
more that that.  That topic is worth some thought.  Has XML become 
just a checkmark on a proposal?  Long long ago, Charlie Sorgi at Context  
told me the day would come when that would happen for SGML. 
Looking at some job listings, that day has come for the applicant.

Markup obsessed?  Moi?  Maybe markup-impoverished.  For all the time 
I've spent on this rollerball of 'not quite ready to be a database' 
technology, I certainly don't seem to be making any headway.   
A career as a markup technologist is to today's market what a log 
roller was to lumberjacks just before the railroad came to the northwest.

No Paul, I am a musician trapped by his daygig therefore just one 
more frustrated geek in a world where the MBAs get the stock options. :-)



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