THE BULL IN THE COLOR SHOP
THE BULL IN THE COLOR SHOP
2005-09-21 at 10:38:00 am #12870
Microsoft: The Bull in the Color Shop
September , 2005
Microsoft is becoming
more color-aware. In fact Microsoft, with input from Canon, plans a
complete rewrite of the color game plan in its Windows Color System
integrated in the upcoming operating system Vista.
Redmond details the motivation behind its shakeup of Color Management
in a recent white paper. In that paper, Microsoft bemoans the growing
user frustration with bad color, the failings of the present ICC
profile approach, and the difficulties for developers in creating
color-managed applications when they are not themselves color experts.
I e-mailed in some questions to the Microsoft press office.
Unfortunately, in lieu of a promised phone response they e-mailed back
replies so technical that I am not quite able to make out whether my
questions were addressed.
To avoid misrepresenting one of the world’s most powerful companies, I
am posting the Q&A text, which was supplied for attribution,
verbatim, to my own geeky color management blog. So please take what
follows below to be my own opinions and interpretations.
# Microsoft believes that good color is now a mainstream user request
in office and home use, i.e., on screens, color copiers, printers and
digital cameras. Users demand a seamless workflow, where good color is
“automagically” maintained by the computer system. To extract a few
words from the white paper, “Color that just works.”
# Microsoft believes that the shortcomings of the current ICC profile
world are severe and wants to move to a Windows-centric
measurement-based system, where the user would input raw measurements
# All other color tuning and computation relevant to color would be
done as far as possible directly within the Windows OS software, by
means of tools integrated into the Windows interface, albeit with the
help of plug-in modules when necessary.
# Microsoft will strive to ensure backward compatibility with existing ICC workflows.
I commend Microsoft’s decision to address the miserable user experience
of the ICC world. At present, as I detailed in an earlier column, it is
incumbent upon the user to profile his or her own devices.
What’s more, the current color situation requires users to purchase
expensive hardware and even more expensive software for profiling
tasks. The tools for profiling a consumer ink-jet printer now cost much
more than the printer itself, and the price of a monitor calibration
puck is a significant fraction of the price of a monitor!
In addition to the dollar cost, using ICC Color Management requires
intense care in setting up the parameters of the computer system one is
using. Indeed, every step in the color managed workflow is a pain. Yes,
Microsoft has got that diagnosis right.
Clearly, simpler and cheaper solutions would be welcome. I believe this is called “Increasing User Value” over in Redmond.
Unfortunately, however, there is the issue of interoperability. The
print industry as a whole may distrust a Microsoft proprietary solution.
In an unfortunate portent of things to come, I was not able to view all
of Microsoft’s white paper because my Mac failed to decode the images
in the DOC file perfectly.
Remember plain ASCII text? That was a standard too, and it was
superseded by “better” files containing text with formatting. That
formatting is now protected by patent and copyright law to the point
where the original text has since become invisible for many of us who
live outside the Microsoft hive.
If a columnist be allowed a joke, those who forget history may be condemned to pay Microsoft to print it.