Different Tools

By David Coursey  |  Posted 2004-12-03 Print this article Print

To be fair, giving Reader review and annotate capabilities for PDF files created with Acrobat 7 can arguably be considered a feature beneficial to all customers, not just the large ones. But if you need additional functionality, you will have to buy one of the full desktop versions or something called Acrobat Elements. This dumbed-down version of Acrobat costs about $28 a seat, provided you purchase 1,000 of them, which is the smallest quantity available. Built to give creative professionals a platform-independent way to distribute documents created in other Adobe products, Acrobat itself was a bit of a slow start. Over time, however, Adobes perseverance paid off. Today just about every desktop and portable I run into seems to have a copy of Acrobat Reader.
While some business customers, in non-graphics fields, have bought the Acrobat authoring tools, many others have purchased third-party products from companies like ScanSoft and Global Graphics that take advantage of the open Acrobat PDF file specification. These allow documents to be easily swapped between Acrobat and Microsoft Words .Doc document format.
These lower-cost authoring products, which are often designed specifically to integrate with Microsoft Office, have increased Acrobats popularity without forcing Adobe to cut prices to serve a mass business market. While competitors PDF authoring tools can be had for less than $50, single copies of Acrobat Professional can fetch more than $400 at retail. While the Adobe product has significantly richer functionality, if all you need to do is create a .PDF the $50-and-under products work just fine. Still, Adobe has an interesting, perhaps even compelling story for potential enterprise customers. Acrobat 7 has a significantly improved feature set over prior versions and the company is providing interesting server functionality. But Adobes pricing, coupled with the low market penetration of Acrobat authoring tools beyond their graphics industry stronghold, leave the company open to predation. Enter the predator Nothing I am about to tell you is known—by me, anyway—to be part of Microsofts product roadmap. But what I am outlining is sensible, good for both Microsoft and its customers, and only messes with Adobe almost by accident. It may also put Adobe in the position of playing the same sorts of tricks on Microsoft that Microsoft itself has been accused of playing on most every other software publisher in the past. In recent years, Microsoft has tried, with a notable lack of success, to compete with Acrobat in the portable document and electronic book market. With a strong effort, Redmond only achieved the degree of market place traction one might witness if a semi-trailer were to head up a 45-degree slope—of solid ice. Next Page: Where Microsoft Fits In

One of technology's most recognized bylines, David Coursey is Special Correspondent for eWeek.com, where he writes a daily Blog (blog.ziffdavis.com/coursey) and twice-weekly column. He is also Editor/Publisher of the Technology Insights newsletter and President of DCC, Inc., a professional services and consulting firm.

Former Executive Editor of ZDNet AnchorDesk, Coursey has also been Executive Producer of a number of industry conferences, including DEMO, Showcase, and Digital Living Room. Coursey's columns have been quoted by both Bill Gates and Steve Jobs and he has appeared on ABC News Nightline, CNN, CBS News, and other broadcasts as an expert on computing and the Internet. He has also written for InfoWorld, USA Today, PC World, Computerworld, and a number of other publications. His Web site is www.coursey.com.

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