Planet PDF Weblog for the week of August 5, 2002
A daily chronicle of Acrobat/PDF-oriented newsbits

For week beginning 5 August 2002
By Kurt Foss, Planet PDF Editor

Monday | Tuesday | Wednesday | Thursday | Friday


NOTE: Previous Weblogs will be archived at the end of each week, and start fresh here. You can also catch up on last week's Weblog.

MONDAY

Changing of the PDF Guard: An official Adobe Systems' news release delivered early today reported the hiring of a new VP (a new position) to head up the company's Acrobat product groups and product strategy -- aka the ePaper Business unit. We look forward to getting to know Ivan Koon as he settles in to his new and challenging role. As we read the press brief recounting his relevant vitals, we immediately wondered where this new Adobe VP fit within the Acrobat upper management hierarchy -- or more specifically, where does Koon's role plug in compared to that of long-time ePaper honcho Joe Eschbach?

The last sentence of the same Adobe communique answered that question:

"Adobe also announced today that Joe Eschbach, formerly vice president of ePaper Solutions, has left the company to pursue other interests."
"Other interests" suggests Eschbach is making a clean break from the world of Acrobat/PDF, for which he's been Adobe's most prominent executive management frontman for quite a few years, and during several generations of the product.

With the successive retirements of former Adobe CEOs and co-founders John Warnock and Charles Geschke and the dynamic duo's intentional fade-out from most high-profile industry conferences and events, Eschbach has arguably been the company's default voice and face of PDF in recent past. As we previously reported, for example, at the Fall 2001 Analysts' Meeting Eschbach "offered assembled analysts a brief overview of PDF-related trends and opportunities, which included a montage of corporate and government logos representing the broad market adoption and acceptance of Acrobat/PDF." In February 2002, he was one of the pair of keynote speakers at the first Seybold PDF Conference held in New York in February; and in fact, until today's surprising news, he was slated as one of two keynotes for the forthcoming west coast edition of the Seybold PDF Conference, slated for San Francisco's Moscone Center in September. Obviously there'll be a change in the program. Speaking of changes, Eschbach has seen many -- for better and for worse -- within the ePaper group's ecosystem during his tenure. Many of the factors that more recently have created problems for Adobe (and most technology companies) result from uncontrollable external forces, including the economic impact of the September 11, 2001 acts of terrorism. Through it all, Eschbach has been a staunch defender and promoter of Acrobat/PDF.

In New York in February, Eschbach had helped to set the right tone for the newly revamped Seybold event, not abusing his keynote role to make a blatant Adobe marketing pitch but rather helping attendees appreciate and celebrate the nearly 10-year history of Acrobat and PDF. The highlight was Eschbach's showing of a promotional videotape from the Acrobat 1.0 era. As we reported at the time on "The Good Old Pre-PDF Days" segment from New York:

"So there'd be no doubt that PDF has been steadily building mindshare for nearly a decade, Joe Eschbach, VP of Adobe's ePaper Solutions group, opened his share of the dual keynotes -- "Adobe PDF: Today and Tomorrow" [PDF: 540kb] -- with an amusing videoclip from the early days of Adobe's efforts to explain the perceived virtues of its portable document format (PDF).

The 10-minute, vintage 1993 video offered a glimpse at a fictitious -- but all too real -- office where employees, among other things:

  • marvelled at their ability to send ascii text ('one doesn't need bold, just a well-placed exclamation point') all around the world

  • bragged about having one pair of computers within the organization linked together ('98% of interoffice computers can't communicate')

  • rejoiced in being able to deliver urgent files via overnight services

  • displayed an enterprise archiving system -- rows and rows of file cabinets -- based on a paper-document-based system that a lone, semi-senile employee admitted was 'logical to him' (others spent up to three hours a day searching for lost information)

  • exchanged documents electronically by sending and receiving faxes (when the paper didn't jam) -- many that would end up being copied 19 times

The obvious question: Do we really need Acrobat/PDF?

The obvious answer: YES!"

In that same February 2002 article we also noted that Acrobat "has become the company's biggest success story of the recent past, growing at a rate that astonished many technology analysts, while other products and technologies (and companies) have struggled in difficult economic times." Eschbach presided during successive, financially record-breaking quarters for Acrobat -- a period of continued year-over-year growth of more than 40 percent as late as Adobe's Q3 2001 earnings report -- as Acrobat moved to become a top-tier revenue-generating product. However, the Q2 2002 in June revealed "essentially flat" sales for Acrobat 5, which began shipping in March 2001.

Last week the news got even worse: The Wall Street Journal reported that Adobe "slashed its third-quarter revenue and earnings outlook, citing lower-than-expected July revenue in all of its business segments and major geographic markets." The company's stock subsequently dropped to its lowest point in three years. According to the WSJ, Adobe's stock "has dropped more than 43% this year, erasing more than $3 billion in shareholder value."

Adobe completed its acquisition of Accelio Corporation in April 2002, intending it to boost its PDF Forms business and beef up its sales team. Eschbach had told the San Francisco Chronicle in February 2002 that Accelio would provide the sales force needed to keep up with Acrobat's rapid expansion, adding that the company "needed a much stronger marketing capability." However, the integration process appears to be more challenging than Adobe expected. In fact, the CEO of Canada-based Open Text Corp., the company that Adobe outbid in order to acquire Accelio, recently claimed in a newspaper article that his company had gotten the best of the non-deal (by *not* acquiring Accelio). In contrast with Adobe's recent financial woes, Open Text has recently reported record sales and profits, its CEO told the Ottawa Citizen newspaper last week.

Time will tell what the future holds for Acrobat, PDF and Adobe. Only one thing is certain: Joe Eschbach has given his last "Adobe PDF: Today and Tomorrow" presentation. Planet PDF appreciates his many contributions to the expanding world of Acrobat/PDF, and wishes him success in whatever new ventures await.

Joe Eschbach - Adobe PDF Today and Tomorrow

'Thanks,' Joe! -- and 'Welcome,' Ivan!


   

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TUESDAY

Show Me Your License: The next time an officer of the law asks to see your license, he or she may not really care if you're driving a motor vehicle legally. At least not in some parts of India.

According to the Cyber India Online Web site, a select group of U.S.-based software vendors -- including Adobe Systems, Microsoft, Autodesk and Symantec -- recently have joined forces to train police to combat software piracy in the Indian state of Karnataka. The companies are all supporting members of the Business Software Alliance (BSA), an international organization that, among other things, fights software piracy. According to the BSA's seventh annual "Global Software Piracy Study" published in June 2002, India ranks among the 25 "Top Offenders" -- countries where software piracy is rampant. The study indicates India moving up -- the problem getting worse -- from a 63 percent "piracy rate" in 2000 to 70 percent in 2001.

According to the CIO news item, "the state can now boast of a taskforce that is trained to distinguish between genuine and pirated software." Apparently the country recently had its first anti-piracy raid taken against end-users in Bangalore, the state capital, carried out by local police following a period of training by the software companies. "Hard disk drives were confiscated as evidence and arrests were also made."

According to the article, the goal of the project is in part to "instill a sense of fear among users of pirated software." Sandeep Mehrotra, Channels Manager for Adobe India is quote as saying: "This kind of action will curb piracy in private organizations."

The willing cooperation of local law enforcement is also seen as "an effort to send positive signals to software companies who have invested heavily in the state."

The problem, according to an article titled "Booty from the Backdoor," is that the "concept of purchasing software is alien to India. Consumers want it for free, almost as if it's their birthright." [Of course, once they begin to grasp the notion of "purchasing" software, someone will need to explain another unfamiliar concept to them: They allegedly don't own the product they purchased -- at least according to most End User License Agreements that ship with commercial software -- but supposedly are only licensing it from the vendor.]

"Despite possessing the purchasing power, consumers in India lack the maturity to buy software from legal sources. This is mainly because a majority of Indians have seen a sudden flood of software in the country but have no clue about its origin. In developed nations, companies make the extra effort of creating awareness about the development stages and resources of software products. In return, consumers are more than willing to pay for the value of the product."
The same article quotes Sanjeev Mehrotra, channels manager for Adobe India: "People in India don't like to pay for the software because it is available with the hardware they purchase. All that we can do is mail legal notices and educate both the end users and retailers against using them."

The problem seems especially bad for Adobe, at least according to this article, suggesting that of "every 10 users of Adobe products, nine use pirated versions." Reuters reported in June 2002 that an industry group, the International Intellectual Property Alliance, says 69 percent of business software overall sold in India is pirated.

At least in some quarters, that may soon provoke a visit from police who've undergone a special kind of "software training," asking to see a user's license to drive certain applications.


   

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WEDNESDAY

Peaceniks for PDF: If you've ever tried to explain the primary use(s) and virtue(s) of PDF to a new or non-user of Acrobat, you understand Adobe's marketing challenge. There's so *much* to say, but so little time to say it. That is, unless someone is already interested, they're only going to give you a brief window of opportunity to explain why they should be -- or why *you* believe they should be -- interested.

If you had to develop a promotional campaign for Acrobat, for example, how would you decide on which attribute(s), feature(s) or benefit(s) to highlight? To take it a step further, given that so much communication these days is non-text-based, how would you convey and support that same message visually (assuming, for the sake of discussion, print-based communication)?

Clearly the opportunities and options are plentiful, some more likely to prove effective than others -- depending in part on the type of audience you're trying to reach and what you might know in advance about their aptitude for and environment in which they utilize technologies such as Acrobat and PDF.

One example appears in the August 5, 2002 issue of The New Yorker magazine (and probably in a number of others) The New Yorker -- a two-page ad spread across the inside cover and opening page of the weekly magazine. I must confess to some personal surprise at the approach taken, which is not to suggest it won't achieve its goal. You can be sure a lot of thought and money went into developing this marketing effort by folks who know a lot more about their particular line of work than some of us in the bleachers. Still, we get to express our thoughts, keeping in mind that if you're already a serious Acrobat/PDF user, this message was *not* developed to grab *your* (or my) attention.

The highlighted attribute featured is "platform compatibility," with a headline on one page of the spread directly beneath the smallish Adobe "Block A" logo:

Windows.
Mac OS.
Palm.
Yes, we can
all get along.
The "fine print" beneath it adds the key phrase "Platform Compatibility" along with the following brief description:
"Easily and reliably exchange, open and print documents, presentations and proposals created on any platform, in any program. Really. Adobe Acrobat. Create an Adobe PDF and do more with your documents."
Last on the page comes the slogan "Adobe Acrobat 5.0 -- Tools for the New Work." (Oddly enough, the file format is more of the ad's focus than Adobe's commercial Acrobat software.)

The left page of the two-page ad contains the primary visual component: a color photographic illustration of what can best be described as a political-type button seemingly pinned on a pair of blue-denim jeans (on the back pocket?). The image on the button is a reddish hand giving the two-fingered "Peace" sign, with the overprinted words: "PDF NOW" across the lower half of the button's face.

If you don't have access to The New Yorker and haven't seen this ad elsewhere, I apologize for the simplistic representation. But I hope you can comprehend the general concept. Granted, "platform compatibility" doesn't exactly lend itself to a lot of quick-to-comprehend images. That said, somehow this particular choice doesn't quite work for me -- it conjures up a different environment than the workplace, and a different set of issues than getting computers to exchange documents. Likewise, "PDF Now" doesn't quite click for me as a call to action.

Anyway, as I said earlier, this ad isn't aimed at those of us who are already believers. For us, "PDF Now" *is* the right mantra -- we understand its myriad possibilities. We all get along with Acrobat/PDF as a viable solution for many kinds of workplace problems and situations.

For anyone who isn't yet a convert, here's another modified slogan from the same era: "Give PDF a Chance." (Or, in keeping with the main textual portion of the ad, perhaps "Give Adobe PDF a Chance?") In other words, try it and see what it can do -- on one or many platforms. You might be pleasantly surprised.

One other thing: the *last* place I'd pin -- emphasis on "sharp pointed thing" -- such a button is the backside of my pants. Not compatible. Really.


   

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THURSDAY

No Post: Vacation Day


   

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FRIDAY

No Post: Vacation Day


   

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