02 June 2006

Adobe Obstructs PDF Growth

According to CNet Adobe will file an antitrust suit against Microsoft. The reason? Adobe doesn't want the next version of Win Office to be able to save as PDF. Apparently they don't mind if Microsoft charges extra for the feature, but if it's included for free as part of the Office 2007 suite, that's not okay. Mac Office, and indeed every application on the Mac OS X that prints, can save to PDF. Can someone explain to me why Adobe would want to make it more difficult for Windows users to produce PDF documents? Print to PDF is one of my favorite features of Mac OS X. If Adobe goes after Microsoft why wouldn't they also go after Apple for including this kind of functionality in the Mac OS? This seems like a very strange move on Adobe's part.

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

I believe Apple pays adobe a licensing fee. Maybe Microsoft does not want to pay the licensing fee (wow, that was weird to type)

Steven Fisher said...

This doesn't make sense to me, unless Adobe is fearing that Microsoft will do to PDF what they did to Java. I always thought PDF was royalty free.

Anonymous said...

Too bad that "print to pdf" isn't nearly as good in Mac Office as in WinOffice....

John Klepack said...

I'm at a loss on that one as well. Off the top of my head: does Adobe make any signifcant amount of revenue on Acrobat? Maybe they feel the more casual pdf'ers will stop buying Acrobat, since it's more than they need, and instead just use Office... Still, that seems like pretty soft reasoning.

Mitchell Scott said...

That is a strange move indeed.

David Weiss said...

From ars technica: "One can certainly understand why Adobe would not want Microsoft to include PDF export at no extra charge. While Acrobat isn't exactly Adobe's bread and butter, the company has worked long and hard to make the file format the de facto standard for forms and newsletters designed to be passed electronically and printed. That success has translated into sales, which would undoubtedly fall off once the majority of users upgrade to a PDF-compatible version of Office."

So, with no revenue generated by Print to PDF software sales, it looks like there no other way Adobe could capitalize on their PDF file format. Do they really make that much on Acrobat? Could they find another revenue stream using this format? Tough to say.

njyo said...

Well, I guess that the market share also definately plays a role. Since many big business customers buy both, MS Office and Acrobat, they wouldn't do so anymore... Since Acrobat actually just adds on extra stuff like Forms and other things hardly anybody (let's say non-geeks) ;) uses, nobody would feel like needing Acrobat anymore. The Mac OS X market share of a few percent, just like the Linux market share anyways do not produce Adobe's revenue on the Acrobat products.

As much as I can understand the move, it is a pity since it might also somehow keep users that do not know of OS X or Linux (again, non-geeks) ;) stuck to the annoying file formats of .doc and whatever.

Eric said...

Here is an interesting legal take on the Microsoft PDF issue. It's a post from the University of Chicago Law School, by Randy Picker, a guru in the field.

http://uchicagolaw.typepad.com/faculty/2006/06/remedies_in_mic.html

David Weiss said...

Eric,

Thanks for the great link. I think I've totally underestimated the amount of money Adobe makes from Acrobat.

David Weiss

digitalsneek said...

correct me if I am wrong, but I was under the impression that PDF was an open format? I share your view in regards to the Microsoft/Apple targeting? Are they going for Microsoft because they have a greater market share? Perhaps they think MS is spening buckets in other legal areas and that this is the time to strike, then perhaps further down the road IF they are victorious, use that as a precedent against Apple at that point?

Either way, they are just making the end user spend more for functionality.

Love the blog. Keep it up!

Cheers;
Matt

Lyne said...

Microsoft responded by pulling out the ability to save as PDF. Here's the link: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/13105705/ .

stingerster said...

Apple and Adobe work very closely on PDF, I believe you have some cross-licensing, IP sharing going on there.

rochmind said...

For windows users, there's an open source pdfcreator at sourceforge to use even for Office. MS just doesn't want to "share" profits.

Mauricem said...

I think this is a very smart move. What they're afraid of is that Office will replace Acrobat as the standard for making PDFs. Microsoft is already trying to promote their competition for PDF format in Office. If Microsoft's new standard gets a foothold and Acrobat is rendered obsolete by Office, then Adobe crashes and burns.
Why not go after Apple?
Which is the bigger fish?

Josh Peters said...

I think it's all about the bookmarking creation. Microsoft's PDF creator does a ton more out of the box than any of the free creators out there. Specifically, I think Adobe got pissed because Microsoft built the autobookmarker in.

Nick said...

I think this is an Adobe own-goal. Assuming that the MS Office functionality was limited to the creation of basic PDFs, like in the MacOS X Print->Save as PDF function, this feature in Office would have had the effect of cementing PDF as the electronic document interchange format of choice for fully formatted documents.

Adobe would have benefited from this through the further standardisation and wider adoption of the format, and the increased functionality of their products in creation of more sophisticated PDFs.

They may have lost some sales of the Office add-on product, but I fear that they stand to lose far more if MS get their way and are successful in the marketplace with their competitive format, XPS. The chances of this are greater by far if you can save documents in this format from Office applications without requiring any additional software, whereas to save documents in pdf you do require to obtain additional software.

If Adobe compound this problem by missing out on the opportunity to include Acrobat Reader with Vista when it ships they are definitely making things very much harder for PDF. Just because it's the leader now doesn't mean that this will always be the case - look at Netscape...

Goodwin Ginger said...

As do almost all office suits bundled with Linux Distros. Indeed it is one of the reasons I began migrating to Linux. It seems reasonable that Adobe is not to head up about linux, it is free and it has low market saturation but open office is also available for MSOS.

I guess Adobe's attitude is that it is fine as long as it is not bundled in an application that sits on the majority of PC users desk tops. They sell pdf writing software no?

Anonymous said...

I can be wrong, but for me, the only logical reason was Adobe thought Microsoft will "embrace and extend" pdf and do the same with Java before sun fight it. try to balkanize it and create an "windows-only" pdf and break the universality of pdf.

PDF is not simply about document to print, it's also an industrial standardised format for professionnal printing.

Anonymous said...

I think adobe is truly afraid MS will subvert the standard to their own needs. It isn't about royalties that much, is that they think they will tie it into Windows to the degree, where PDF is no longer a relatively independant standard, as proprietary as it may be to Adobe.

Consider what something like ActiveX did to the games market... it definitely made cross platform development less of workable proposition for many. And, you can't be totally blind to MSFTs -history- of 'adapting' standards, only to throw a monkey wrench in them so that the new majority is Windows useable only.