Acrobat/PDF: Thoughts on the First Decade

Editor’s Note:
Whoa! 2012 already. That went fast. Another decade down. Let us know your thoughts on PDFs second decade of existence by posting on the Planet PDF Facebook wall.

PDF has survived the dot-com bomb. Why? Most probably because it was never really part of the jump-on-the-bandwagon technology boom anyhow. Unlike the yet to IPO, PDF was developed to solve a real world problem. When PDF was first developed by Dr. John Warnock in the early ’90s, it was a pet project to build a file format for distributing documents within the company for display on any computer.

From those humble beginnings, PDF grew from strength to strength. Notable milestones include the release of Acrobat Reader as a free product in 1994, and the release of Acrobat 4.0 in 1999. The policy change to freely distribute Reader — down from version 1.0’s $50 cost — was the catalyst in making PDF the de facto standard for final form presentation, whilst the release of Acrobat 4.0 was the first version of Acrobat that was taken seriously in the larger business world.

Adobe Product Timeline

Excerpt from Adobe History/Product Timeline.

Along side all of this, the real coup-de-grace and driver for Acrobat sales has been the leveraged model championed by Adobe with almost all of their products. For those who haven’t noticed, Adobe Acrobat — the most commonly used application for working with PDF files — sports an extensive plug-in model and development framework. This so-called leveraged model has been highly successful within the world of Acrobat, creating an ecosystem of hundreds of companies across product development and bureau-related business.

This forward thinking strategy involved building and supporting a network of third-party developers and organizations who also operate their businesses around PDF. It has taken time, but nearly a decade down the track, we can say that the activity that we are seeing now is a direct result of some very wise decisions made in the early-to-mid ’90s.

Our current count at Planet PDF in our PDF-related Tools database is that there are more than 550 tools and products from a variety of developers worldwide that directly create or consume PDF files. In fact, if you were to take all of the bytes of code contained within each of the 550 PDF-related tools and to place them into a single-byte line, they would reach from here to the Moon and back. Well…, not really, but you can be certain that they’d still go a long way.

In fact, during its most recent analyst meeting in December 2001, Adobe announced that Acrobat has become a $300 million opportunity, and the company now has shifted more than 50 percent of its sales force to further driving the ePaper/Acrobat/PDF momentum.

In today’s technology circus, even when the layoff insider’s Web site f**ked company is reporting more companies than ever before are falling from the business highwire, Acrobat and PDF are still continuing to do backflips.

At this time of uncertainty and job insecurity, there’s one multi-skilled, multi-faceted application that won’t be getting the golden handshake.

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About the Author: Karl De Abrew

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