The Journal reported today that talks between MSFT and Adobe broke down earlier this week. The issue is whether PDF will become a built-in feature of Microsoft’s office.
The issue Adobe is whether users of Microsoft’s Office software, which include the Word, Excel and PowerPoint applications, will be allowed to save files in Adobe’s PDF format. If Microsoft included PDF in its widely used Office programs, it could potentially crimp distribution of Adobe’s Acrobat software, which is one of several programs that can be used to create PDF documents.
Of course, Microsoft is regularly accused for being a proprietary platform, and enabling PDF (which is an open standard) production within the Office Suite would enable all their documents to be readable without Office software.
And looking at it, you might think this is a one-way legal fight to make sure the big guy doesn’t squash Adobe like a bug on a windshield. Adobe is the babe in the woods, in this fight against the giant Microsoft.
But, while Adobe certainly has a high ground on this fight, they’re not taking it sitting down. This is not just a one-way assault by Microsoft on Adobe. Adobe acquired Macromedia to fight MSFT with a true breakout strategy. Bruce Chizen has said publicly that Adobe wants to merge Flash and PDF into a software layer that would run on top of all computing devices, providing the user interface and application environment. If successful (and that’s a big IF), this strategy would turn Windows into commodity plumbing. Mike Mace, on my team, wrote about this in his weblog.
This is not a one way assault on Adobe, but a fundamental tension on who will innovate the platform and UI of the industry.
All of this is going on, of course, while the up-n-comers create Web 2.0 applications which could change the way we think of UI in the future. Let no one take their eye off that ball.