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Karl's Corner: Adobe speaks...

June 16, 2006

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Editor's Note: Formerly CEO of Planet PDF, Karl De Abrew is now the CEO of Debenu (www.debenu.com) -- maker of the Quick PDF Library (formerly iSEDQuickPDF | QuickPDF) (www.quickpdflibrary.com), a powerful royalty-free PDF developer SDK, and Benubird Pro, the easy-to-use personal document management system.

ARTS PDF and Planet PDF are both divisions of BinaryThing

Last week, I -- along with every other PDF industry observer and his dog -- commented on what was shaping up to be a heavy-weight legal tussle between Adobe and Microsoft. One thing I noted at the time was the conspicuous silence of Adobe. News of the company may have been "everywhere you looked", but word on recent developments seemed to be coming exclusively from Microsoft's corner. No more.

Dan Shea's newsbit from June 8 includes the initial public response from Adobe's Senior Manager of Corporate Public Relations, but the San Jose-based software giant has since expanded on these comments, releasing a substantial formal statement:

June 12, 2006
As a result of recent media reports that have speculated about a dispute between Adobe and Microsoft, Adobe is providing the following statement:

Microsoft has been an important partner to Adobe. Adobe is one of the largest commercial developers of Windows software and we share millions of customers around the world. While we typically do not publicly discuss our negotiations with customers, partners or competitors, Microsoft recently made a decision to share with press the fact that talks with Adobe were ongoing. Therefore, we feel it is important to provide additional background and clarification on a few of the resulting issues that have been raised in the coverage.

Adobe has been in discussions with Microsoft for some time, sharing concerns regarding features and functionality in the upcoming releases of Vista (the next version of Microsoft's operating system) and Microsoft Office. While much of the press coverage to date has centered on disputes over PDF and XPS (a competitive technology to PDF) in MS Office and Vista, the real issue is the protection of open standards.

Adobe is committed to open standards. Adobe publishes the complete PDF specification and makes it available for free, without restrictions, without royalties, to anyone who cares to use it. Because we license the PDF specification so openly, it has become a de facto standard, used by hundreds of independent software vendors worldwide. No other specification is employed on as many hardware platforms, operating systems and applications as PDF. PDF is incorporated into a number of ISO standards, and Adobe encourages developers, independent software vendors and publishers to support and embrace it. While the specification is available publicly, customers expect Adobe to ensure that the format does not become fragmented and that competing implementations of PDF do not undermine what customers have come to expect in terms of reliable viewing and printing of PDF documents across platforms and browsers.

Microsoft has demonstrated a practice of using its monopoly power to undermine cross platform technologies and constrain innovation that threatens its monopolies. Microsoft's approach has been to 'embrace and extend' standards that do not come from Microsoft. Adobe's concern is that Microsoft will fragment and possibly degrade existing and established standards, including PDF, while using its monopoly power to introduce Microsoft-controlled alternatives -- such as XPS. The long-term impact of this kind of behavior is that consumers are ultimately left with fewer choices.

Adobe has made no determination to take legal action against Microsoft -- any speculation on this matter is just that.

Adobe welcomes innovation and competition. We are confident in our ability to drive innovation and compete successfully given a level playing field. In our discussions with Microsoft, our motivation has been to maintain a fair, competitive landscape in the software industry. Any suggestions to the contrary are unfounded.

So, although Adobe says that it isn't currently looking to take the battle to the courts, neither has it ruled out that course... Looks like we're in for an interesting time. I'll be back with more as the situation continues to develop.

We don't pretend to have all the answers in this scenario -- in fact, we'd like to call for feedback. Please drop into the Planet PDF Forum Talkback section and let us know what you think.

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