Who Killed the Brisque?

by admin on December 19, 2007

Every once in awhile, I see a post in a prepress forum from a Brisque customer who is completely p----d off that Kodak is discontinuing development/support/upgrade for the Brisque workflow. But the untold story is that they had no say in the matter.

Now, before I go any further, I should disclose some personal details: 1. It's no skin off my nose as to whether Kodak gets flamed in prepress forums or not. I left Creo in 2004 just before the Kodak takeover with a very reasonable settlement so I neither have hard feelings or nor any love for Kodak. 2. I am currently an independent consultant with absolutely no chance of ever getting business from Kodak, not because Kodak hates ex-Creo employees or anything like that, but because of the Canadian dollar (65 cents US in the glory days of Creo, 99 cents US today and oh boy does that affect the economics of doing international business in Vancouver.) 3. But I think truth matters, and a lot of stuff is going down the memory hole and that is bothering me more and more these days.

Anyways enough of that personal crap, let's get to the crux of the story: Who killed the Brisque?

The death blow was made in the winter of 2002 (January or February, I think) at the head office of Vancouver, at a very high-level, well-attended meeting chaired by none other than Amos Michelson, then CEO of Creo. THE frickin' Amos Michelson, you should go and google "Amos and Creo" if you don't know who he is.

Pretty well every software VIP in the organization was there, representatives from Vancouver (Stan Coleman, Barry Quart, Dave Kauffman) and Herzlia (Gershon Tauger, Yoav Telem, Barak Paltiel). I can't remember if COO Mark Dance was there (probably not, he wasn't a software guy) and whether Judi Hess was made president or not by then. Definitely at the time, Printcafe was turning into a nightmare for Amos and that had a bearing on the decision.

Me? I managed to attend the meeting but as an extremely junior project manager, I had no role or say in any decision, except perhaps to help some of the VP butter their croissants. But I was an eyewitness to the discussion.

Amos led the charge to kill off the Brisque, with Barak Paltiel and Dave Kauffman pushing back to have Brisque ported from AIX to Apple's OS X. There was huge discussion (and if you have ever seen two Israelis engage in a "passionate" discussion, you'll know what I mean). Paltiel was the Brisque guy through and through and Dave was the "vision" guy.

You have to remember at the time, Apple was nothing more than a niche player only supported by Mac fanatics. Dell was eating everybody's lunch and Windows 2000 was chomping up huge market share from the Unix players who were more than halfway down the road to oblivion. IBM was walking or running away from AIX as fast as it could and pushing Linux hard. So the Brisque on AIX had to go.

The North American sales guys, the rainmakers who had Amos' cellphone number on speed dial, hated the Brisque. They had sold Prinergy with multple VLF CTPs to all the big boys like RRD, Quebecor and Quad Graphics and they had huge political pull. So that was a factor too.

Anyways, there was a HUGE discussion with many players putting their two cents, and it ended with Amos getting consensus from everybody to kill the Brisque, with the exception of Barak (I can't remember if Kauffman caved in the end, forgive me Dave).

During the discussion Stan said that porting drivers to Apple OS X was going to be too difficult. And as usual, nobody noticed what Stan said because he spoke with a soft voice. But I think logistics killed the Brisque.

And now we entered into the realm of speculation: I just told you what I saw, now I will tell you what I think happened behind the scenes. I THINK Amos asked Judi which way to jump and Judi asked Stan which to jump and Stan looked at the logistics like he always does and said I can't do Prinergy and Brisque and all the other stuff that you guys want me to do, cut out the Brisque. Amos was a smart guy and I think by then he had figured out that whenever he followed Judi's advice in with regard to software, he looked like a genius, and whenever he didn't consult with Judi, he didn't look so smart (see Printcafe).

And Judi wouldn't go against Stan no matter what, because Stan was the logistics guy and he didn't have a political bone in his body. Nobody outside of the software group ever "got" that, that if Stan didn't think something was going to happen, then it wasn't going to happen.

And at the time, we had too many things going on in the software development group, too many high-risk products (like Six Degrees) in the pipeline and Amos/Judi needed guys like Stan and they trusted him probably more than any other executive. My personal experience dealing with Stan was that if he ever had a personal agenda, I never saw it in my five years working with him. Time and time again we would go into meetings and some prima donna would think Stan was a nobody and crap all over his shoes. And every time Stan wouldn't say nothing, not even notice, and just focus on the LOGISTICS or stumbling blocks of whatever project/problem on the table, and look for resolution. And every software project engineer in the Willingdon building knew that. And Amos KNEW that every software project engineer KNEW that about Stan, if you get my drift.

Anyways, so Stan whispered in the meeting that porting drivers to OS X was going to be too difficult, which is to say he couldn't spare the bodies for the massive undertaking of porting Brisque to OS X, AND deal with the other five million projects being thrown at his head. Passion can win you battles, but logistics decide the war.

In hindsight, (JUST MY OPINION) we shouldn't have killed the Brisque. We had good margin on both Prinergy and the Brisque, and we should have told the North American sales guys to just deal with it, sell both. What we should have done was whack pretty well all the other goofy software projects that we were doing, like Six Degrees, that were sucking up huge executive bandwidth. IN HINDSIGHT, we were rolling the dice on a lot of goofy code that had little chance of ever being profitable, and very good chance of making us look bad. Which it did.

We should have taken a flamethrower to Printcafe venture, a complete nightmare of a venture run by people that couldn't even control their code base.

But now I'm second guessing, and no one could have guessed what had been laid in store for us in the future years. In software development, it's the latency that kills you, and makes very smart people look dumb.

Note: If there were any other attendees to that fateful meeting, and if I got any of the facts wrong, please let me know in either the comments or e-mail me privately if you don't want to be publicly identified, and I will update this posting.

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Chris Riley December 20, 2007 at 10:29 am

This is a topic you see a lot of on the prepress forum websites…and it interests me a lot. when i first moved to my current employer (just over a year ago), we were using the Brisque workflow. i had been a rampage user for almost 10 years, so lets just say i HATED the brisque. when i started here, the word was we were getting Prinergy already, so i knew i wasnt going to spend too much time learning the nuts and bolts of brisque, since it was out the door. i just found the whole interface slow and clunky, and not user friendly at all. all this being said, almost EVERYONE who had worked on it for years loved it, and hated to see it go. it has been nearly a year since the switch to prinergy, and i cant speak for everyone, but i feel confident in saying that we havent looked back even a minute and regretted making that switch. some of the conversations i have read online get pretty heated, so it is clear this a fierce allegiance to the brisque workflow from a lot of people, so it must have been a pretty great product, but even in the short time i worked on the brisque i cant believe that ANYONE can say that it even slightly stands up to the capabilities of prinergy.

i could be entirely off-base saying that, but id sure like to hear other comments.

btw, great play-by-play of the whole discussion, very good insight as to what happened.

cr

ALarson December 20, 2007 at 6:28 pm

I was the main Brisque Demo guy in Vancouver, while also showing Prinergy. I would like to add my $.02CDN which is that I think the drop shadows and transparency effects in InDesign were the straws that broke the camel’s back. All boardroom history aside, the CT/LW format tumbled like Paul Bunyan and Prinergy’s greatest migrations resulted.

I checked today and since October 2004 which is around the time of this pretty feature arriving on the scene, I personally did 777 demos. The majority of these were Brisques who all had the stressed out Prepress Manager starting off with “I am having trouble with transparency”. If I had a dime.

I have been to Israel twice to meet with the Brisque team and I can attest that they are world class and can stan with their heads high with what they built.

But, man do I love showing those files in Prinergy. Shooting fish in a barrel.

AL

Mark Jetzer December 31, 2007 at 11:28 am

Love my Prinergy System, but I miss my Brisque. There was a nice simplicity to it. It worked, it was rock solid, last minute changes were easy (if you knew PressTouch.) I was one of the first Brisque Pack installs along with Pandora. Spent alot of time on the phone with Barak and others working out Brisque Pack/Pandora issues. Doing Packaging on a Brisque, THAT’S a prepress challenge! I went to the CUA (Hollywood, FL) and pretty much knew after the Brisque was dead. It just couldn’t handle the new Adobe stuff. No one was talking about the “NEW” features, or showing off the next version. Prinergy was everywhere.

Now, if I could just get the Kodak to make Prinergy PowerPack more like Esko.

Mark Jetzer December 31, 2007 at 11:31 am

Love my Prinergy system. Miss my Brisque Pack/Pandora. I was one of the first North American installs of Brisque Pack/Pandora doing Packaging. Spent a lot of hours on the phone with Barak working out Issues.

We switched after the CUA in Hollywood, Fl. Knew then that the Brisque was dead. Everything was Prinergy.

William Mitchell December 31, 2007 at 4:22 pm

Wow,…nice play by play!

I was the manager of a prepress dept for 10 years, and we were a Brique Shop. Upgraded from the PS2!! So I was a long time CT/LW guy. Must admit at the time there was nothing out there as good. Especially trapping and automation. Can you believe we called that automation back then?

Side note.

Before leaving that shop I was trying for a technical sales position with Creo at the time. Had 3 very long conversations, like a pre interview. The last 2 conversations were picking my brain about pdf and what I thought about the future and pdf workflow. Hindsight!!

Dov Isaacs December 31, 2007 at 8:57 pm

For what it is worth, one of the big problems with Brisque was its CT/LW architecture when it came to dealing with non-opaque objects. It would have been exceptionally difficult to port the Adobe PDF Print Engine, a major feature of Prinergy 4.0, to Brisque. With 20-20 hindsight, the decision to “kill” Brisque probably would have been made later on when the Adobe PDF Print Engine issues came up if it hadn’t been already made.

Fake Zeke Orro January 10, 2008 at 1:29 am

Well, I’m going to pretend to be one of the guys named in this interesting story, and take up DJ’s offer to comment.

This battle never about the logistics of software development. What we argued about was vision – and from my take, being good at logistics might keep you from doing something really stupid, but it is also usually means you are less likely to take the risks to create anything amazingly new or innovative. iPods don’t come from logistics masters…

The argument that porting Brisque drivers to Mac would have been costly is totally bogus. I was in contact with a very small semi-secret team that had already prototyped the entire Brisque engine in OS X in their spare time. It was a small effort and not hard since they shared Unix underpinnings, and the PS/M was already in production.

One reason Creo Vancouver wanted to kill the Brisque is that we had been competing with it so long, some saw it is an evil thing that should be destroyed. I had a more Sun Tzu approach, of respecting your enemy, as it made us both stronger. Creo did not want Brisque competing with Prinergy. I thought they could together expand our market.

In my then picture of the future, completing the port of Brisque to OS X with an Aqua UI at a price under $10,000 would have replaced the PS/M and completely sealed up low-end RIP market, putting Harlequin and Rampage out of the running. Brisque had enormous brand value, but was seen to be an aging product line. Our optimal strategy would have been to add our PDF normalizing, color management and trapping as optional offerings so that CT-LW fans could test and migrate their workflows to PDF (which they agreed was the inevitable future) at the rate they felt best met the risk/reward economics of their businesses.

Instead, I failed to make my argument, but like Cassandra, I had to watch the goodwill of Brisque users drift away as we stopped the PS/M, strangled the Brisque to death, and tried to jam (arguably better) PDF workflow down customers’ throats. Then, amazingly, Creo proceeded to create its own competitor to Prinergy anyway, a very Brisque-like PDF RIP called Evo.

But that’s another blog comment…
Regards deej,
fzo

ALarson January 10, 2008 at 11:22 am

FZO,
Some readers might recall seeing Director, which was actually Creo Vancouver’s attempt at giving the 9000+ Brisques out there a second wind, by putting the CTLW engines within Prinergy, thereby taking advantage of the Oracle Database, load-balancing, floating license, integrated Preps blah blah blah. In 2005, it was the main product I was showing in Chicago at McCormick Place.

Many folks thought Creo would stop the Brisque on Day 1 after Creo bought Scitex years before. Reality was the opposite, and when the underlying weakness of the CTLW format really showed, Evo became the logical stepping stone for Brisque users to migrate. It had a lot of the architecture of the Brisque, except for the Adobe CSPI PDF engine instead of CTLW. Right down to the plug-ins like PlateBuilder, the development team made it very similar in functionality to what FAF and Presstouch had provided for users, without the dongles. All the Preps templates migrated. The dongles, licenses on Brisque were allowed to migrate into a much more productive system that used a fraction of the harddrive activity, network packets that a Brisque could do. It also bridged many users into the SquareSpot imaging via Print Console, and got away from the headaches of TurboScreening and the fibrehead of imagesetters that were showing their age. IBM wanting a fortune for hardware didn’t help.
I would have loved to not only seen the Brisque ported to OSX, but instead would have loved to have seen Prinergy natively coded on OSX but I am an old prepress Mac hack that worked with DJ back as far as early 1990s in the PRN to Selectset and Lino days. Good luck finding more than a carload of Mac developers in Vancouver back in 1997 to do that, let alone today. Most programmers are PC only, and the fact that the minority of the developers are true Mac lovers, including some of the early visionaries that sketched out the concept for Prinergy at Araxi restaurant at Whistler are as Mac-friendly as you will find anywhere. Reality is, it takes millions of dollars of R&D and bodies to crank out this code base, and Windows on a Dell has become a pretty rock solid system without the cold-starts of a Unix system. Love that term. All you cdsdky’s out there had a sweet system in the Brisque that made Scitex and Creo the workflow powerhouse it is today.

Creo and Kodak has always respected the Herzelia gang and what they cranked out near the sea north of Tel Aviv.

Having Prinergy Connect/Evo around to show to Brisque customers has been my bread and butter for several years now and they still keep coming. No complaints here.

AL

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