In the comments of my latest post around the legal issues we’re currently dealing with from Adobe around our PDF support in Office 2007 a number of folks were wondering when Adobe would provide their side of the story. Well while I was down in Tech Ed, there was a press release from Adobe that you can view here. I just got back today and was pointed at the official Microsoft response. You should take a look, I think there are some really good clarifying statements.
Adobe said that they view PDF as an open standard that is freely available without any restrictions or royalties required. That’s really great, and it was why we felt there would be no problems when we started the work at the beginning of the project to support PDF output. That’s also what had led to my initial confusion around why our built in support had become a problematic issue for Adobe. Someone in the comments even posted this interview at Wharton with Bruce Chizen:
Knowledge@Wharton: One of the other things Microsoft has announced is the ability to save as PDF in Office 12. This means that, once that happens, non-Adobe technologies are creating PDF in MacOS X, in StarOffice, and on Windows in Office [applications]. Isn't this a challenge to one of your major revenue streams?
Chizen: Maybe. But we don't think so. First of all, it's somewhat flattering that Microsoft has validated a document format that is not theirs, but one that is Adobe's -- which suggests that their customers were demanding that it do so. We had anticipated for many years that the revenue we achieve around PDF creation would, at some point in time, go away. It's an open standard! There are many clones out in the marketplace today that create PDF and compete with Acrobat. What we have done over the last five years is added functionality beyond PDF creation in our product line-up. If you look at Acrobat today it is much more than just simple PDF creation. In fact, we have a product, called Acrobat Elements, that just does PDF creation, and it represents a relatively tiny piece of our overall revenue -- less than one percent. Most customers choose to buy the more feature-rich products, Acrobat Standard and Acrobat Pro, which do annotations, digital signatures, web capture [and so on]. And many customers are buying LiveCycle, the server products for mission-critical workflows. That suggests to me that even though PDF creation will become free with products like Microsoft Office, our revenue streams will continue on. In fact, with more PDFs being created from Microsoft Office, it gives us an opportunity to take those PDFs and do more with them, like building mission-critical workflows around them.
From the latest public statement from Adobe, it appears that they are concerned that Microsoft would one day “extend” the PDF specifications. It looks like this is the root of the problem, and I’m hoping it's just a misunderstanding. We don’t have any plans to extend PDF, and if you think about it... doing so would serve no purpose. We’re only a producer, not a consumer. All we care about is that it’s easy for our users to export PDF, and that the PDF we export looks great in the main PDF viewers out there (otherwise no one would use the feature). I work with the team that built the PDF support and they did an amazing job. It was a lot of work, and they paid extremely close attention to the spec, and even spent a lot of time trying to decide which internal features (such as bookmarks and TOCs in Word) it would make sense to map to the proper PDF constructs. As I’ve said before, the output we provide is far more powerful that what you would get with just a printer driver, as there is an inherit awareness of the structure of the file, and not just the presentation of it. Adobe is actually a participant in the Office 2007 beta program, and if there is any place where they think we haven’t followed the spec properly, we would love to hear about it right away. You should all have the ability to download the Beta so let me know if there is anywhere that you think we’ve either diverted from or extended the spec.
I know that it is common for folks implementing a format to extend it in order to support whatever extra features that application has. Those of you who are developers know that the way you differentiate your product is to innovate and design new powerful features that deliver value to your customers – it’s good to continue improving. This is not the case though for our PDF support, and we have no intention of ever doing so (even though as far as I can tell there is nothing in the PDF spec that limits third party extensions and Adobe has never tried to stop that until now). We’ve publicly stated that we will not extend the spec, and I’m hoping that as long as we can be clear on that then Adobe will change their mind about wanting us to remove the support.