Microsoft looks to head off Adobe action on PDF

Microsoft’s legal woes are continuing with the software giant this month saying it will make changes to the next versions of both Office and Windows in a bid to fend off court action from rival firm Adobe Systems.

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By  Dylan Bowman Published  June 11, 2006

Microsoft’s legal woes are continuing with the software giant this month saying it will make changes to the next versions of both Office and Windows in a bid to fend off court action from rival firm Adobe Systems. Microsoft executives had earlier confirmed that the company expects Adobe to begin legal proceedings against it over its plans to provide support for Adobe’s PDF (portable document format) technology. Specifically, Adobe wants Microsoft to remove the PDF “save as” feature from Office 2007. While Microsoft was going to offer that feature for free, Adobe claims it should only provide that feature if it charges a fee for it. Adobe is also objecting to Microsoft’s plans to put its own XML Paper Specification (XPS) format, developed under the Metro codename, as part of its next-generation Windows operating system, Vista. Adobe sees these moves as a threat to its core business: while it gives away the PDF reader, it makes money by selling the software to scan documents or print them to the format. The XPS format will provide similar functionality to PDF, but Adobe is concerned that the dominance that Windows enjoys in the desktop space will give the Microsoft format an unfair advantage. While the two companies have been negotiating on the issue for several months already, those talks now seem to have broken down. In what commentators suggested was an attempt to answer some of those concerns — and more likely to prevent a future injunction from succeeding — Microsoft has now said it will make changes to both Vista and Office 2007. Microsoft has agreed to give computer makers the option of not including some support for XPS in Vista, and cut the Save to PDF or XPS function out of Office 2007 — instead having it as a free download. “We don’t want anything to stand in the way of customers getting their hands on the product,” Microsoft vice president Chris Capossela, told the Cnet online news service. “We certainly are trying to be a good partner here,” he claimed. Analysts suggested last week however that Adobe's concerns were valid. “PDF integrated into Office 2007 could deliver a double competitive blow,” Jupiter Research analyst Joe Wilcox wrote in his weblog. “First, there is Microsoft giving away for free something that Adobe now charges for. Second, PDF comes to Office at the same time Microsoft will make available its own competing technology,” he argued. Micrsoft will be keen to prevent any further delay to Vista, which it had earlier said would ship in the second half of this year. That has now been postponed to next January, with Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer suggesting last month that it may now struggle to hit its revised January 2007 deadline.

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