OPINION: Clash of the Titans

(Ed: Planet PDF and ARTS PDF were both divisions of BinaryThing and have been acquired by Debenu. 2013)

Reports are coming in all across the globe that Adobe isn’t content to let Microsoft shoot forth with an integrated ‘Save As PDF’ feature for Office 12 (as we’ve previously reported in our editorial, ‘Microsoft comes to the PDF party‘). The WSJ is reporting that talks between the two software companies have reached an impasse during the past week, as are The Street, Slashdot and many, many others.

In years gone by, Adobe was able to generate a nice income from basic PDF creation without fear of competition by way of Acrobat sales, but these days have long since passed. In a recent interview with Wharton, Adobe CEO Bruce Chizen stressed the San Jose software giant’s reduced emphasis on PDF creation as a source of revenue. OpenOffice (the open source alternative to Microsoft Office), for example, contains a ‘Save As PDF’ feature and has done for quite some time.

Avid Planet PDF readers and members of the PDF community would know that we’ve long been saying that PDF creation had a limited lifespan as a saleable product and that it was inevitable that it was going to become something that you’d spend about as much money on as you’d spend on a web browser.

‘What is so interesting about Microsoft’s response is its willingness to
quickly accede to Adobe’s first-round demands and its claim that
Microsoft’s relationship with Adobe is ‘very important.”

Karl De Abrew, CEO, Planet PDF

Just to be clear, Microsoft has already agreed to separate the ‘Save As PDF’ feature into a separate plug-in. What Adobe is asking Microsoft to do, according to reports, is force users to pay for the privilege, as well as removing the direct ‘Export to XPS’ (previously known as Microsoft’s Metro format) feature from Office. Consequently, Microsoft is suggesting that Adobe may well file a lawsuit against it in Europe.

None of the coverage we’ve scanned has made it clear whether the removal of PDF creation would apply to Euro-only or all versions of Office. What is so interesting about Microsoft’s response is its willingness to quickly accede to Adobe’s first-round demands and its claim that Microsoft’s relationship with Adobe is ‘very important.’ Requests for PDF functionality in Office were the #2 submission at the Office 12 web site, with over 120,000 requests per month, and this was a key driver in Microsoft’s decision to include PDF creation capabilities. You can read a lot more about Microsoft’s plan to add PDF support to Office 12 and feedback from a variety of customers and potential customers via Cyndy Wessling’s blog on Save as PDF in Office ’12’.

Clearly, there is a good commercial reason for Microsoft to proceed down this path.

There is no question mark over whether developers other than Adobe can produce PDF software. Page 7 of the PDF Reference 1.6 clearly states this. The issue in this instance is simply Microsoft’s potentially anti-competitive bundling in a market in which it has an overwhelmingly dominant market position. That is, the heart of the issue here is whether Microsoft is abusing its dominant competitive position in one market to harm operators in another.

Brian Jones, Program Manager of Microsoft has posted a further discussion of this in his blog — for the most part, Jones is flummoxed that PDF is being retracted from its ‘openness’. What a signal this must be sending to government bodies and standards groups who’ve bet the farm on PDF.

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About the Author: Karl De Abrew

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