Now 23 years down from the launch date of the June 1993 introduction of Adobe Acrobat and PDF by Adobe Systems, Planet PDF Managing Editor Karl De Abrew is conducting a series of brief ‘Masters of the PDF Universe’ profiles with key members of the Planet PDF community. This is the third series since the first in 2003. Karl talks with Eugene Y. Xiong, Founder and Chairman of the Board at Foxit Software Inc. in Fremont California. Xiong is a quiet yet astounding achiever, you (usually) won’t find him talking at conferences, exhibits, or publishings, but what you will find is the result of his leadership in places you would never expect. His PDF technology is being tightly integrated by major companies like Google, HP, Acer, Asus, and DocuSign. Now probably more importantly, a very significant number of Xiong’s team are working taking PDF one step further, and building a new era in document management. Based on clearing document deluge: allowing for tracking, sharing, culling, recalling, sanitizing, updating and securing PDF.
PLANET PDF: When and why did you first get involved with PDF?
EUGENE Y. XIONG: I got involved with PDF in year of 2003, when I started to search for long term direction for the company I founded. I did a lot of research online and most of the technical and marketing research documents I read were in PDF format, which made me wondering why was this single format so popular.
PLANET PDF: For those who don’t know, what is it that you are doing with PDF right now?
EUGENE Y. XIONG: I’m in charge of strategic planning for Foxit Software, an independent software vendor focusing on PDF related technologies, products and services.
PLANET PDF: Briefly describe the most significant change in the evolution or use of the technology since you first began working with PDF, and why do you consider it significant?
EUGENE Y. XIONG: Well, perhaps to answer this question, I need to give a little background. Think back to 1991, the original reason for what Dr John Warnock, CEO of Adobe called ‘Camelot’ [PDF] was ‘… to provide a collection of utilities, applications, and system software so that a corporation can effectively capture documents from any application, send electronic versions of these documents anywhere, and view and print these documents on any machines’.
It’d be fair to say it’s been a very long journey to get to the point where people are very comfortable working and operating with PDF as opposed to paper. But right now, it’s exciting and happening in all places that paper is being retracted as the ‘default’ output for bills, online receipts, books and the like. People want to collaborate around document from all kind of devices, in a connected environment, around the planet. That said, there is a problem with this, hence, our next project.
PLANET PDF: What’s your next PDF project (as much as you *can* say, at least)?
EUGENE Y. XIONG: We believe that PDF is now amazingly successful in its ease of production, fast distribution and low-cost processing. Having said that, because of this, there is a real document deluge. Flying around everywhere, from government, business, commerce and even personal use. It’s been estimated over 2.5 trillion documents are in existence. We believe our new ‘ConnectedPDF’ concept is the direction of future document exchange and that it solves these problems. We are introducing ConnectedPDF, bringing PDF format into a connected world. We believe ConnectedPDF will be the most significant change in PDF technology. PDF was designed to replace paper when it was started, but right now people want to collaborate around document from all kind of devices, in a connected environment. We believe ConnectedPDF concept is the direction of future document exchange.
PLANET PDF: The world is shifting towards more of a focus on a subscription-based model. What impact do you think this will have on the world of PDF, both from a developer/solutions provider standpoint and user perspective?
EUGENE Y. XIONG: Foxit embraces the subscription-based model, not just licensing control but also all the additional features that comes with the subscription. Especially with ConnectedPDF Web Services, Foxit now provides our users a total document control and security service, without any investment in IT infrastructure.
PLANET PDF: Pondering the future of PDF, what most excites you about the next few years?
EUGENE Y. XIONG: We see a lot more interest in further extending PDF standard, to solve real world problems. We believe with the effort of the PDF community we should see PDF to be transformed to something even greater in the next few years.
PLANET PDF: Briefly describe a common misconception about or frequent problem you’ve seen with PDF that you’d like to try to clarify for others and/or provide a tip to address.
EUGENE Y. XIONG: A lot people thought PDF can’t be modified, which is totally untrue. Now a lot of vendors provide tools to change PDF. So knowing how to really secure PDF is very important. We suggest to use ConnectedPDF to secure a document if it’s really sensitive or valuable.
PLANET PDF: What are your favorite PDF tools, applications, SDKs or services (unrelated to your company or business) and why?
EUGENE Y. XIONG: I use some electronic signing tools which are quite convenient, now I rarely print out and sign any documents.
PLANET PDF: How has developing with PDF changed since the formal recognition of the various PDF standards?
EUGENE Y. XIONG: Initially the standardization process slowed, but right now we see it picking up again. For a solution like PDF to be effective, it needs to be deeply integrated and supported for it to be effective. So this is a very positive change.
PLANET PDF: How has the proliferation of relatively powerful mobile devices and widespread data access changed the way people work with PDF?
EUGENE Y. XIONG: A lot. People are not entirely satisfied with the user experience of viewing PDFs on mobile devices. But Foxit believe with more effort we should be able to overcome that issue.
PLANET PDF: What impact has the rise of mobile/portable had for those providing PDF-based solutions?
EUGENE Y. XIONG: It was both opportunity and challenge. Foxit was among the first to provide platform independent PDF technology, but it has a challenge for we to port our full featured desktop application to mobile.
PLANET PDF: Where do you see the most important functional gap in what’s out there? Tell me about your dream PDF tool, SDK or whatever. Why do you think it doesn’t exist yet?
EUGENE Y. XIONG: I wish there were a tool that can perfectly blend the features of content-based documents (like HTML or Word) and page-based documents (PDF). It’s just hard. But I think it’s possible to some extent.
PLANET PDF: Is there anything important you didn’t feel that we covered? Please tell me and our readers about it!
EUGENE Y. XIONG: Stay tuned! 😉