Adobe Forces Microsoft To Drop PDF From Office 2007

Wall Street Journal

Brad Smith, Microsoft's chief lawyer, said that talks between the two companies recently broke down. The four-month-long discussions were over Microsoft's plans, first announced in October 2005, to add a "Save As" feature within Office 2007 that would let users save documents in Adobe's popular PDF (Portable Document Format).

"Adobe has threatened antitrust action unless Microsoft agrees to raise its prices, in particular for the software that would allow Microsoft Office users to save a document in the Adobe PDF format," Smith said to the Journal.

Adobe wants the Redmond, Wash.-based developer to offer the PDF-creation feature as an add-on and charge extra for it.

In 1993, however, Adobe made PDF available in a public specification; under that specification, Adobe lets other developers' software create PDFs without paying a licensing fee. Software from Apple, Sun's StarOffice, the OpenOffice open-source suite project, and Corel's WordPerfect, among others, use the PDF technology.

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Actually, Adobe applauded Microsoft's addition of the Save As feature in October 2005. "Microsoft's adding PDF validates the role of PDF in customer workflow," Pam Deziel, Adobe's director of platform strategies, told TechWeb then.

All that confused at least one Office 2007 developer.

"I'm still trying to figure that one out given that PDF is usually viewed as an open standard and there are other office suites out there that already support PDF output," wrote Brian Jones, a program manager for Office who works on the suite's file formats, a blog entry. "I don't see us providing functionality that's any different from what others are doing."

Rather than integrate the Save As PDF feature within the Office 2007 applications, said Jones, Microsoft will instead offer it as a free, after-the-fact download. "Unfortunately now there is an added hassle in that anyone that wants the functionality is going to have to download it separately," he said.

Jones also took Adobe to task not only for applying a double-standard, but for seemingly backing out of its pledge that PDF is an open file format.

"Adobe got a lot of goodwill with customers, particularly in government circles, for making PDF available as an open standard. It's amazing that they would go back on the openness pledge. Unfortunately, the really big losers here are the customers who now have one extra hassle when they deploy Office," said Jones.

The Massachusetts state government has been one which has pushed for widespread adoption of open file formats, notably the open-source OpenDocument Format and Adobe's PDF. Massachusetts has been critical of Microsoft and its proprietary Office file formats, and has decided that it will begin the transition from Office to open formats starting in January 2007.

In September 2005, Eric Kriss, the secretary of administration and finance for Massachusetts told CRN that "Desktop software that supports OpenDocument and PDF in the future is acceptable; Microsoft's proprietary XML formats are not."

Microsoft already distributes Adobe's for-free Reader with Windows; in May it patched a bug in Adobe's Flash media player using its own Windows Update mechanism, a first-ever for Microsoft.

Adobe was not immediately available for comment.