No PDF in Office Could Mean More RIA Clout for Adobe

No PDF in Office Could Mean More RIA Clout for Adobe

Summary: Could the move by Adobe to force Office 2007 to exclude the export to PDF feature be aimed at making sure Apollo and its Rich Internet Application strategy are intact? This move will require Vista users to download more Adobe software, giving them a better chance of penetrating Vista.


People are buzzing about the news that Microsoft expects Adobe to file an antitrust suit over the inclusion of "Export to PDF" in Office 2007. Joe Wilcox has the best analysis and ZDNet has a good overview of the story. Marc Orchant here at ZDNet also made mention of the hubbub. Despite all the exposure, a lot of people, myself included, are a bit confused. PDF is an open standard, and both MacOS and Open Office have options to export as PDF. PDF seems more like a commodity at this point than a proprietary technology. So what's going on? And how does this impact Rich Internet Applications?

I'm glad you asked. Some of this is going to be a reach, and I realize that, so I encourage you to take it with a grain of salt. I'm brining all of these up as discussion points rather than actual predictions. I think that Adobe is betting a lot on Apollo, the universal client that will bring together PDF, Flash and HTML. This technology is going to be a big part of their RIA strategy and Microsoft and WPF are the biggest threat to that. It seems possible that Adobe could wrap some significant PDF functionality into Apollo. But cutting of Microsoft and leaving everyone else be, the 90% of people using Windows will have some incentive to download Apollo and further Adobe's RIA agenda.

The other thing that struck me as interesting was that according to eweek Microsoft offered to bundle Flash and Shockwave with Vista in exchange for PDF functionality. Adobe obviously thinks that Flash stands on its own, and wasn't willing to cave on PDF in exchange for the market share that Vista ends up with. Because PDF is open, I would have thought this exchange would be a no-brainer.

In the end, I think this is Adobe standing up to what it sees as its fiercest competitor and Microsoft trying to paint Adobe as a bad guy while moving to make its XPS format more attractive. However, the analysts are happy and it will make a good portion of Vista users download more Adobe software. If that software is used to both deliver high powered RIAs and PDF, then it's a direct shot at Microsoft.

Topic: Software Development

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  • Looks more like Adobe protecting their revenue streams

    Ryan: Interesting conjecture. I think the driver here is a lot more simple - Occam's Razor applies. Adobe is trying to staunch a potential flood of lost Acrobat revenue. Currently, Acrobat Pro is a big seller (expecially in the corporate market) because it PDF-enables Office. It's the principal reason many organizations (and individuals) buy the Pro package (at a MSRP of $249 per one-off copy - much less in volume I'm sure).

    Whether or not Microsoft ends up shipping their export-to-PDF as a separate download or not, I predict this dust-up will end up hurting Adobe a lot more than MS. There are plenty of alternatives that are free (albeit clumsy) or cheap (and just as easy as Acrobat Pro) to choose from.

    It's often hard to tell what's actually going when you listen to press release speak and legal conjecture. My BS filter and finely tuned olfactory sensors say that MS comes out of this smelling pretty good. Adobe? Not so much.
    • Acrobat Additions

      Thanks for reading morchant. I've always thought that Acrobat Pro did more than just export to PDF. I think there are things like document security, and the ability to publish PDF forms that justified the $250 price tag. That may not be the case, but I always assumed that Acrobat Pro was more value add than just saving PDFs.

      In any case, you're right that this seems like a straight "revenue protection" stance. And that's probably not far from the truth.
      • The Acrobat to be.

        If Adobe is in process of elaborating Acrobat, and not only concerning RIA, then incorporating the most prominent Acrobat feature into Office could reduce sales of the new product.

        Adobe may not want to lose a sales point just when the company is attempting to save and expand a market.
        Anton Philidor
      • Acrobat does do more, but what do average people use it for?

        You're right, Acrobat has a lot more functionality than just saving a simple PDF. But what do average users use Acrobat for? Creating simple PDFs.

        At a summer job several years ago, Marketing had us order copies of Acrobat for many of their staff. All they really used it for was making PDFs that they could post on the Internet (product literature and the like). Nothing that couldn't've been done with some freeware or cheaper third-party Office plugin.

        Many people have been buying full-featured Acrobat for so long when they could've just used other cheaper products. Adobe's gotten a lot of money from this, that they shouldn't've gotten if their customers were a bit smarter. That's what's got them worried--they'd lose this with Office 2007.
        • Good Points

          Anton, PB, both good points. The number of people buying Acrobat to create PDFs on Windows has to be high. And as a percentage of Acrobat sales, it's probably huge. That's a lot of revenue to lose out on.
  • Extend, Embrace, Extinguish

    The PDF standard is open, true enough. According to the accounts I've read, the license on PDF formats is that as long as the output conforms to the specification, then you're in compliance with the open license terms.

    One thing that has not been discussed is the plans that MS has for this format. It would be fairly consistent with previous MS behavior if they would try to "improve" it by adding their own ideas to the format without proper consensus.

    I believe that unspoken story is MS's implementation of the standard and it's lack of compliance to the standard. It's kind of like MS Word, the world's worst HTML editor. I believe that MS is going to botch the job with PDF just like they did with HTML editors built into their Office software.

    I'd be upset with MS if I knew that about them,too.

    Its a format fight, but they're talking about it like it is. Every open source application out there can do it, so why can't MS do it? Heck, even OpenOffice for Windows creates PDFs. Otherwise, I just don't see how Adobe has standing to sue.