Forthcoming Forms Wars: Adobe PDF v. Microsoft XDocs?
Perceived threat drives down Adobe stock

9 October 2002 | UPDATED: 10 October

By Kurt Foss, Planet PDF Editor

Perhaps Bill Gates' biographer had it wrong when he concluded Microsoft had conceded victory to Adobe in the unspoken competition to develop a "defacto standard file format for distributing and displaying richly formatted documents over the Web," as we had reported in April.

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TheStreet.com reports today that on the heels of Microsoft's announcement of its forthcoming XML-based XDocs -- designed to "enable office workers to create forms tapping different types of data from multiple sources and also send data from forms to different parts of a business" -- shares of Adobe stock declined in heavy trading, based on the "possibility of XDocs competing against Adobe's Acrobat products, including its portable document format (PDF) and ePaper initiatives."

The article quotes David Yockelson, executive vice president and director of electronic business strategies at Meta Group:

"If you think of PDF the way Adobe would like it to be thought of -- as a final form and also as an intermediate container -- XDocs could rip the lid off PDF as an intermediate container. XDocs looks like a much more pliable and potentially more powerful way to aggregate pieces of data from places that happen to be spitting out pieces of XML."

Another analyst notes that a new version of Acrobat is expected in the first half of 2003, adding that Adobe "has been getting more involved in forms management as part of a broader effort to infiltrate the enterprise," referring to its acquisition of the Accelio Corporation earlier this year. According to the article, Microsoft's first version of XDocs is due to be released mid-2003 -- emphasis on "due."

A related InternetNews.com article "XDocs An Adobe Wake-up Call" offers this blunt assessment, warning that Adobe ought to heed the lesson of the sudden demise of one-time Microsoft competitor Netscape Communications:

"XDocs is a form aimed directly at knocking Adobe from dominance in e-documents and replace it with a Microsoft label."

Adobe's Harry Vitelli, senior director of product management in the ePaper group, reminded TheStreet.com that Acrobat has included XML for several years, adding that "PDF is the only format in the market today where you can say it looks exactly as it appears on paper, it prints the way you want it every single time, and you can secure it so someone else can't forward it or read it."

Even most of the official court documents in Microsoft's latest antitrust cases with the U.S. Government, after all, are available in PDF.


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