Good Monopoly vs. Bad Monopoly

Sunday, October 01, 2006
Many programs, including for example the wonderful OpenOffice, have built in the ability to write PDF documents. Thus, you can use OpenOffice to create a document, and you can then save it in its own open format, or in Microsoft's .doc format, or in Adobe's PDF format. I've found this feature incredibly useful, as it has allowed me to create and edit documents on my Linux machine and then send them to others running Mac or Windows, safe in the knowledge that the document I produced would be the document they viewed, with the same format I created.

Some time back Microsoft decided to allow Word in the next version to write PDF files.

"When Microsoft announced in October that it would follow suit in its next release of Office, it seemed like a refreshing acknowledgment of reality in Redmond, Wash.

You'd think that would have delighted Adobe as well. The San Jose, Calif., firm has worked for years to establish the PDF as a standard way to share data, having written versions of its free Adobe Reader for all the major desktop and handheld operating systems. And while the company charges $299 for its Adobe Acrobat PDF-creation toolkit, it's encouraged other developers to release their own.

For some reason, however, Adobe saw things differently when Microsoft wanted to join the PDF party. As Microsoft explained, in February, Adobe asked it to sell this feature as a separate add-on for Office 2007.

"We needed to break it out, offer it separately and charge a price for it," recounted David Heiner, Microsoft's deputy general counsel, in a phone interview. Adobe also asked Microsoft to yank support for a Microsoft-developed, PDF-like format called XPS. Lastly, Adobe wanted XPS support removed from Windows Vista, the successor to Windows XP that is due in January.

If those demands were not met, the implication seemed clear: See you in court....

Heiner said Microsoft wanted to avoid any legal entanglement and offered to yank the PDF-export option from Office, instead making it available as a free download (although, he added, Adobe still wants Microsoft to charge extra for it)."

As the WaPo says, it seems an odd choice for Adobe. Repeat after me: Adobe monopoly good, Microsoft monopoly bad.


Fresh Air said...

I find this a bit surprising, since Apple has been offering PDF capability for several years through the "Print" function.

Maybe there's something about the authoring tool I don't understand.

chuck said...

Apple has a long relationship with Adobe, going back to display postscript. The development of Truetype fonts strained it a bit, as they were a way to get around Adobe's refusal to let its postscript font technology loose. But anyway, the relationship is long established and Apple's share of the os market is somewhere around 5%, IIRC, so Apple really doesn't matter that much.

Seneca the Younger said...

I still want to hear the rest of the story. There are a bunch of PDF "printer drivers" for Windows, easily available; maybe Adobe thinks freely available open source drivers aren't important but adding it to Windows is. But then, as fresh air notes, those PDF drivers are easily available in Mac OS/X; Microsoft Office on Mac OS/X creates PDFs just fine too.

Or maybe Microsoft's top lawyer isn't telling the whole truth.

Of course, that could never happen.

MeaninglessHotAir said...

It's interesting how people always assume Microsoft is wrong and lying.

Adobe is balking at letting Microsoft do anything. It's not that the technology isn't out there—it is in many ways, as has been pointed out repeatedly—it's that Adobe specifically doesn't want Microsoft to do it.

Perhaps the even more surprising thing is that Microsoft is following Adobe's wishes because it's trying to be Mr. Nice Guy.

Seneca the Younger said...

t's interesting how people always assume Microsoft is wrong and lying.

It's only because of years of experience.