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Good-bye Adobe DPS, Hello AEM Mobile

Adobe recently announced that Digital Publishing Solution (DPS) would become part of a new product called Adobe Experience Manager (AEM) Mobile. Confused? You’re not alone. This is the second name change for DPS in less than a year. Why did Adobe do this, what’s changing, and what does this mean for DPS users?

You might have recently received this update notification and wondered what was going on!

You might have recently received this update notification and wondered what was going on!

A little background

Five years ago, when the iPad was unveiled, Adobe introduced Digital Publishing Suite (DPS) as a way for designers to produce digital, interactive magazines using InDesign. DPS provided a relatively simple tool for building a customized tablet app, an InDesign plug-in for creating app content, as well as a distribution platform for publishing this content into the custom app.

These were heady times. Adobe had great success selling the solution to most of the large magazine publishers. I traveled the country teaching people how to use DPS, and my PePcon workshops about DPS were full.

But a couple of years ago it became clear that people weren’t consuming digital magazines on tablets at the rate that many publishers had hoped. Users seemed to have a preference for a continuous feed of content delivered to their phone, instead of interactive, curated, magazine-style content delivered at infrequent intervals to their tablet.

So in 2015 Adobe announced a new product called Adobe Digital Publishing Solution (not Suite). This became known as DPS 2015, and the “old” DPS as DPS Classic. Existing DPS customers could choose to continue to publish using either DPS Classic or DPS 2015. But DPS 2015 made it possible to create a highly-custom, responsive app interface and navigation sytem, to publish a continuous feed of articles, and to include reflowable HTML content in an app.

Now, Adobe has decided to make DPS part of the Adobe Experience Manager product line.

Why the change?

  1. Adobe sees a huge corporate market for AEM Mobile to create apps that distribute information to sales teams, provide training materials to employees, recruit new hires, show retailers how to display products, and many other uses. These are Adobe’s target customers for Adobe Marketing Cloud, of which AEM is a part.

    A screen shot from the AEM Mobile Web site. Umm...what about Publishing? That's an industry, right?

    A screen shot from the AEM Mobile Web site. Umm…what about Publishing? That’s an industry, right?

  2. These types of apps often need to contain content generated from a wide variety of sources. AEM Mobile apps can still include highly-designed content from InDesign, but also content exported from Powerpoint presentations and PDF files, as well as HTML content.
  3. HTML content is the future, because such content can be auto-generated very efficiently from a Content Management System (CMS). And guess what? At its heart, AEM is a CMS. And, as a bonus, HTML content is responsive (able to reflow based on the screen size).
  4. These corporate apps tend to be a mix of rich content mixed with app functionality. Creators of these apps want to include features such as payment calculators, location-aware features, data storage on the device, and connections to databases, email, and calendars. Adobe is promising that you will be able to include these types of widgets and device connections via future integration with Apache Cordova.

What does it cost?

Each iteration of DPS has become more expensive. There is no longer any kind of entry-level monthly “professional” subscription. Each contract is negotiated with Adobe based on the number of apps, size of company, size of audience, etc. Anecdotally, I’ve heard that pricing starts at around $50,000/year. Obviously, this price point is only attractive for customers with industrial-strength requirements.

What to do?

If you’re a DPS Classic user: You’ll be able to continue to use DPS Classic, unchanged, for now. You may need to renegotiate your contract with Adobe, but presumably you will be able to continue to use the DPS Classic platform until it is someday dismantled by Adobe. If you determine that you are no longer one of Adobe’s target customers, you should begin looking at some of the alternative solutions described below.

If you’re a DPS 2015 user: There is no immediate change to your workflow other than a new name and logo on the DPS (AEM) Web portal, the DPS (AEM) Preflight app, and the InDesign plug-in. In the months to come you will presumably see new features and capabilities available to you. Read this FAQ for more details for existing DPS customers.

If you’re looking for a digital publishing solution: Try a 30-day free trial of AEM Mobile and all of its promised capabilities, and determine if it is the right fit for you.

But what if you aren’t large enough to be an AEM Mobile customer?

Alternatives to AEM Mobile

The great news is that alternatives to Adobe DPS/AEM have matured a lot in the last couple of years.

You can learn more about these solutions and more in my post-conference sessions Getting Started with Tablet Apps and Enhancing and Publishing your Tablet Apps at this year’s PePcon in San Diego.

Keith Gilbert

Keith Gilbert

Keith Gilbert is a digital publishing consultant and educator, Adobe Certified Instructor, Adobe Community Professional, conference speaker, author, and contributing writer for various publications. His work has taken him throughout North America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. During his 30 years as a consultant, his clients have included Adobe, Apple, Target, the United Nations, Best Buy, General Mills, Lands' End, and Medtronic. Follow him on Twitter @gilbertconsult and at
Keith Gilbert

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25 Comments on “Good-bye Adobe DPS, Hello AEM Mobile

  1. Terrific summary, Keith.

    Unfortunately, I do not share your outlook for those with grandfathered DPS Classic Pro accounts. Adobe has done next to nothing to support those customers. They didn’t even include DPS folio producing tools in InDesign CC2015.

    Additionally, the desktop content viewer (which was never a great app) no longer functions at all and won’t get updated. For those wondering about that, it’s because AIR now only supports 64-bit applications. It’s not going to be updated, either.

    They stated when DPS 2015 launched that they would support DPS Classic for at least a year. That ends in July and we see this service still going past that I’ll be shocked.

    I wrote a bit more about this on my own blog: My post is more aimed at those users and as a spoiler alert, it’s more of an obituary for DPS Classic.

    Finally, I actually see this as a long term positive. Adobe, IMO, has never really had a handle on where they wanted this to go. That’s not all that surprising giving that they dove head first into waters that had only just been discovered. They’ve been making it up as they went along. Third parties can now compete with each other for the market Adobe isn’t serving without worrying about competing with Adobe itself.

  2. Having worked on most of these solution, I too would give Twixl Publisher a thumbs up. Where as Adobe’s digital publishing solution is not a viable option for most agencies and startups, twirl offers complete value for money. Not only is it very easy to use, but the support for nested overlays is really improving.

    If only the App size using any of these digital publishing solutions that work with InDesign could be reduced.

  3. Hi Keith!
    Great writeup! AEM is one of Adobe Marketing Cloud’s flagship products and integrates with most of their other Marketing cloud products. Like you mentioned it is a CMS system that can include multiple modules like AEM Forms, AEM Apps or AEM Sites. And these build (as you might guess) forms, apps (using Cordova) or website pages. So having AEM Mobile (DPS) in this deal creates a 1+1=3 situation where you can repurpose content and centralise all of your business. A very large portion of the tablet publishing business (if not the largest part) today is B2B and B2C communication, and no longer the traditional magazine publishers (though these are still very important). And Adobe noticed that and started offering a robust solution for that market, which indeed is enterprise oriented. I’ve spoken to many DPS Pro agencies who lost, or are about to lose, a part of their business because they can’t extend their contract. Because the product they signed up for doesn’t exist anymore today. So these companies would either negotiate a new contract with Adobe in order to keep specific applications alive, or move to another solution.

    But Adobe’s focus with this isn’t to just create a solution that allows you to create as many apps as you want. It’s not just a design solution, it’s not about which overlays you can use, or how interactive you can make your buttons. It’s actually not just about InDesign, or about the designer (though the creative side of this solution still plays a huge role). That shouldn’t be your focus, the focus should be how this app or mobile strategy will reach your business objectives. And if you’re an agency or a freelancer selling these creative services then AEM Mobile isn’t for you. But the END client does care about his mobile business objectives because they have to drive business using that mobile app afterwards. And it’s that client that Adobe is targeting. With other app solutions you buy a few licenses and create as many apps as you want. Unlike with all other digital marketing solutions, where you buy a SAAS (software as a service) it’s meant to be a business solution and not a design solution. And that’s something that’s very noticeable since it is not only focused on InDesign anymore. You can use Muse, Dreamweaver or any other HTML solution to create content, or, more importantly, use your existing CMS systems like Drupal or WordPress too to create content, all template based. This means that it’s a central platform that every employee can use within the enterprise to write and publish content within a live app.
    And with the implementation of the Cordova technology you can combine the content driven apps (like what DPS is) with utility app functionality, all managed from the AEM back end system.

    Anyway, I didn’t want this comment to sound like one big AEM Mobile ad, but I just think it’s important to understand that the scope of this solution is WAY beyond what most designers only look at. And that’s creating apps using InDesign and then selling that to clients. But keep in mind that any AEM Mobile client can add you to their system as a designer. Because it’s the end client that would sign up for an AEM Mobile contract, not the agency. And that designer can work on both the articles and the app interface. So there’s still a huge role for creative services here. So if I can give advice to designers it would be to team up with interprises and help them to build their app interface (cards and layouts) and their articles.

    But yeah, if you don’t have a massive business then this product isn’t right for you. And I know that it sucks that DPS was probably once your preferred solution when it was still part of Creative Cloud, and now it seems like Adobe took you out of the game. If you’re only looking at creating apps as a creative service to your clients then you’re indeed better off with other solutions. But I, personally, think AEM Mobile can’t really be compared to these other solutions like Twixl or Aquafadas. It’s just a whole different type of product which indeed comes with a different price tag but offers more robust features as a digital marketing product. And if these extra features aren’t applicable to your business then you shouldn’t pay for them and look for a different solution.
    And because of that, IMHO, I’m glad with the name change from DPS to AEM Mobile. Though confusing to many people, it does emphasise that we’re not talking about the same solution as before anymore.

  4. The original DPS solution whilst not as flexible as designers and businesses require was better (in my opinion) than the Digital Publishing Solution for a number of technical and aesthetic reasons, mainly the card based interface whilst good for expected user experience does somewhat impose unecessary design constraints for exploration of using the technology in a design led manner. I would need to evaluate this new solution before being able to recommend it in a production environment, I intend to do this if it is available?

    The main question I have for the Adobe development team is how this can be used in a professional capacity when working on confidential projects? In an ideal world distributing high quality digital publications confidentially in accordance with contractual obligations would be of great benefit to designers, clients and organisations alike. A totally cloud based solution is unviable if it breaks contractual clauses.

    There are many avenues to explore in this type of media, a $50,000 per annum subscription is a capital outlay that will be hard, even within very successful organisations to convince senior management to invest in, especially going on the track record above the line that there are no guarantees from Adobe that this is in any conventional business planning strategy (3-5+ years) a long term solution to the opportunities provided by the technology.

    As an aside, yet important point in accordance with Adobe’s html strategy for digital publications, is it not high time that InDesign style sheets could be implemented as external files much like CSS?

    The opportunities in digital publication design, production and delivery have been of interest to me for many years and I would appreciate more lasting roadmaps and communication of Adobe’s strategy so that their technology can be properly, confidently integrated with business strategy.

    • ‘As an aside, yet important point in accordance with Adobe’s html strategy for digital publications, is it not high time that InDesign style sheets could be implemented as external files much like CSS?’

      Yes, indeed. Importing styles and synchronising books are not the methods that one expects to use at this stage in InDesign’s development.

      • Indeed indeed! Ten years ago at MAX I asked for CSS-based style sheets as a means of unlinking the content from the presentation. Now I wonder if maybe it’s impossible (or at least impractical) since InDesign thinks of content as a child of a formatting range: Story > ParagraphStyleRange > CharacterStyleRange > Content

    • Dear Keith, Crych and Mike,

      I’ve written up a series of feature requests that I’d like to see implemented into the next release of InDesign and I’d appreciate your and other users thoughts on what could be. This is from a production angle working in design led organisations but I am sure some of these ideas are likewise applicable to corporate and smaller enterprises. I’d appreciate your thoughts?


  5. It is obvious that Adobe really isn’t interested in traditional magazines, and has been looking for ways to monetize their assets for the last four years. Making the Creative Cloud a lease-only proposition and tying DPS products to their proprietary workflow and distribution network was a solution that echoes their current initiatives, which is to make a killing on large enterprise clients and neglecting the high-maintenance, low-return small publishing market.

    It has been clear for the last two years that tablet replica publications —no matter how “enhanced”—are neither interesting nor worth the money to most consumers. They’re perfectly happy with them if they are added to a print sub, but not interested in a separate fee for them.

    Meanwhile the powerful HTML5 solutions have generated the ability to produce satisfying alternate workflows that further undercuts Adobe’s old model. It is no surprise that they are thinking bigger and are less interested in providing a simple digital reproduction of a print publication. Since trying to position their DPS product as a comparable value to a print edition with similar per unit costs has been a failure, creating a new, more dramatic product is an obvious business strategy. But their new system still maintains a strangle-hold on distribution and workflow while making any kind of independent product difficult to integrate, trying to make it difficult to move off the platform.

    InDesign started as a alternative to Quark’s own proprietary monopoly on digital content generation, but we are a decade removed from that squabble, and while ID is still a marvelous (if somewhat bloated) tool, it has long since become a mere cog in a strategy to find a category-killer with a large potential upside.

    But for small publishers of both print and digital content, the real future is in open-source products and CMS systems. And while, as a creative agency, it is disappointing to be diminished as a customer, no one can blame Adobe for chasing a more lucrative strategy, despite the fact that history has demonstrated that proprietary workflows are almost always rejected once an open standard solution becomes available.

  6. Hi, great article! My question is: When they will stop this madness? Those guys at marketing and those guys at depvelompent are making a lot of “mistakes” or we should call them “avangard tests”, that is my personal opinion, for example:
    Flash > Animate;
    Brackets > Edge > Brackets;
    Flash Catalyst > Nothing;
    Live Motion > Nothing
    Page Mil > Nothing;
    GoLive > Nothing;
    Adobe DPS > AEM;
    and sorry by the complain but I miss Freehand!


    • Hi!
      Just jumping in here. I can’t speak for all applications. But most of the Edge tools never left the “preview” version. These were more experimental pieces of software, successful ones. And these options have now been implemented in the major applications. Like Edge Reflow technology which now exists in Dreamweaver and Muse, Edge Inspect in Dreamweaver. Edge Animate is indeed end of life and I really love that product. But the investment in Animate CC is making up for that. Adobe DPS has been absorbed by AEM now but hasn’t gone away, the product is still there and is very much alive.
      Of course I can’t speak for the other programs you listed here. But this technology hasn’t really disappeared.

  7. @MIke Rankin: I wasn’t thinking that ID would use style sheets based upon CSS but just that they might be, as Sam wrote, ‘implemented as external files much like CSS’. I’d be happy if the current styles could be collected in style sheets independent of documents, edited, and either imported into a document or — perhaps more difficult — the included styles applied from a panel to an item in any document that is open. CC Libraries seem to be moving in this direction and it would be a logical use for them.

  8. well
    until the guys at illustrator admits they don’t put the function “paste inside” and “cut content”
    they are still arrogant and not willing to admit that freehand was a good tool that could be a great inspiration to illustrator

    instead they decided to kill any feature that was good and maybe in a decade – when no one remembers the feature they will release it as a “innovative new feature”

    why illustrator does not use the indesign type engine is beyond me
    why the interface of indesign is easy and illustrator is somehow messed up

    oh freehand….ohhhhhhh

    • Hi Gil,
      Just a quick one. There IS a paste inside option in Illustrator. It’s just not there as a command. You can find a “draw inside” button on the bottom of the toolbar. When this is active for an object you can paste anything you want. E.g. an image in live text.
      Hope that eases your pain ;)

  9. @Jen: No way to preview articles on the a desktop computer. The Overlays panel, and the overlays that are created with it, function in articles just as they always have. But you’ll need to view them on a mobile device using the AEM Mobile Preflight App.

  10. Thanks I’m currently trying to find solutions for working in a Citrix environment with EPUBs and the AEM so every bit of information helps.

  11. Thanks you for this thorough and easy-to-understand summary of what happened after Adobe DPS. Years back we researched multiple options and went with the Aquafadas system to create and app and publish magazine issues, created in Indesign, to the app. This worked extremely well. But now our client is looking for something more web-based due to cost and social sharing options. This article just talked me out of AEM as a solution I think, unfortunately.

  12. Thanks it’s great article, also good information about in5 especially to export HTML 5 directly from InDesign. Could you please share any plug-in to accept HTML 5 files to import as source contents in InDesign?

    • @Keith: Thanks for sharing the details about Publish Online, which is an alternative for AEM and it’s free. It’s very useful to plan to me to move into Digital workflow, which is the compulsory migration for us as our clients are moving into Digital workflow instead of producing PDFs.

      @ALL: I prepared the small sample article using this option and published now, please check the link and share your comments, please.

  13. OFFLINE DP SUITE including the test viewer with in5 or twixl plugs or woodwing extension seemed 2 me the easiest approach for simple magazine apps, and affordable for small end customers, problem was only the lag as bigger the app got, just can’t wait for the next chip Generation and Affinty Pub. as another way for SIMPLE process… Of course it is obvious that ADOBE has its focus on the big players, but it is a pitty 2 have the impression that they leave the creative base who supported them kinda behind in the rain
    We r lost in a cloud with 2 much of rain …

  14. A question to all of you far more knowledgeable people than i. How do you see a product like Typefi Publish fit into the end to end source content to end print and EPUB publishing pantheon of solutions?

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