The Adobe Story: The Ascent of Acrobat
Excerpt from recently released book from Peachpit Press

2 December 2002

"Adobe and the Ascent of Acrobat"
excerpted with permission from the book "Inside the Publishing Revolution: The Adobe Story" by Pamela Pfiffner and published by Peachpit Press.

SEE ALSO: "Acrobat Takes Hold"

The Adobe Story

The early days of Acrobat were full of both promise and discouragement. As championed by John Warnock, Acrobat and PDF were technologies that would take Adobe boldly into the next century. Convincing a hesitant marketplace was another matter. Eventually, two events helped propel Acrobat into the mainstream: Adobe's decision to give away the Acrobat Reader free of charge and the rise of the Internet as an information platform. But in the early days, the application had plenty of naysayers, both within and without the company, and Acrobat would not have survived at all without Warnock's dogged determination.

Concept

"No one thought anything about Acrobat at the time. Microsoft thought it already had the answer. It was called '.doc.'"
-- Roger Black, publication designer
"This was the Holy Grail: How do you move documents across networks and platforms? For 30 years people have been trying to solve this problem. IBM tried, DEC tried. Then we did it with PostScript, by snatching the print stream away from the printer."
-- John Warnock
"We understood what Acrobat could do from a technology point of view, but not from a marketing point of view."
-- Bryan Lamkin, senior vice president, graphics business division

Vision

"Acrobat was a start-up within Adobe. It took us years to get our arms around it, but then it started to take off."
-- Fred Mitchell, vice president, venture development
"People called it the Roach Motel of documents. You get documents into it, but they never come out."
- John Warnock, speaking at Seybold Seminars, 1999
"Acrobat was a vision of John's. He had the strength of conviction to see it through."
-- Dick Sweet, principal scientist, Advanced Technology Group
"Acrobat was part applications and part system software. It took us a long time to figure out how to market it."
-- David Pratt, former co-COO and original head of the application products division
"The bell went off for Adobe when printers started requesting PDF files."
-- Roger Black
"I was working late one night in my office, which was next to Warnock's. We had to use Acrobat for everything and the beta software was hard to use and took me a long time to do this simple thing, so I started cursing aloud about this stupid software. John stuck his head in to see what was the matter and saw it was Acrobat. I told him that if I had old-fashioned paper files in my in-box, I'd be finished and at home by now. When he sat down in the chair opposite me and leaned back, I knew that I was in trouble. He was going to wax poetic about Acrobat. It was going to be a long night."
-- Linda Clarke, former vice president of marketing, application products division

Proof

"Warnock was the lone voice in the wilderness saying we would make money on PDF and Acrobat when all anybody else saw was that we were giving it away for free."
-- Doug Brotz, principal scientist, ATG, and Adobe's longest-tenured employee
"We started making headway when we were giving the Reader away for free. Through Adobe Ventures we went out of our way to fund companies to do PDF development. We needed to find companies to make PDF a standard. Warnock had the vision in his head but translating it into marketing took some time."
-- Linda Clarke

Determination

"The board of directors always challenged our commitment to Acrobat. But if Chuck and I agreed, then they'd go along. We've been right often enough. Chuck and I agreed about Acrobat."
-- John Warnock
"Had it not been for the individual support of John Warnock and the support of the executive team and the rest of the company, Acrobat wouldn't be here."
-- Clinton Nagy, former Acrobat sales director
"All these antibodies wanted to kill Acrobat. Then they came back and said, Oh, shit. John's right again."
-- John Warnock

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