Where Microsoft Fits In

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

Thats about how well Microsoft Reader did, though I suspect the technology will reappear, if it hasnt already, as part of the Microsoft Office Digital Rights Management (DRM) solution. But does Microsoft really need its own portable document standard? I dont think so. Click here to read more about Microsoft DRM.
My suggestion is that Microsoft adopt the open Adobe PDF format as its own for portable documents, document workflow and management, and forms automation. In adopting the Adobe spec, Microsoft simply would be accepting Acrobats status as the de facto standard for document portability.
The downside is that Microsoft may learn—and this has already been the subject of some grumbling in the third-party Acrobat community—that the PDF spec may not be as open as widely supposed. After Adobe used Acrobat 7 to take advantage of "new" features already baked into prior versions of Reader, some outsiders cried "foul." There has also been speculation there may be other hidden APIs as well. If this sounds like a complaint made many times in the past against Microsoft, thats exactly what it is. However, given Microsofts ability to widely distribute PDF authoring tools essentially for free, Adobe would be wise to work with Redmond to assure compatibility. Microsoft, while capable of adding proprietary extensions of its own to a PDF format would presumably still desire compatibility with Adobe Reader on non-Windows platforms such as Macintosh and Linux. Sometimes it just makes sense to work together, and this is one of those times. For more insights from David Coursey, check out his Weblog.

Rights Management Services (RMS) for documents are likely to find their way into the next release of Windows Server. Microsoft could create significant value simply by bolting RMS onto PDF tools and readers. Having both PDF and .DOC formats available would make it easier for Microsoft and its customers to separate documents archived or saved for distribution from those still "live" and subject to editing in Word or other Office apps. Whether Microsoft will do this or not and the real impact it would have on Adobes enterprise plans is hard to judge. But Adobe is potentially headed into even more direct competition with Microsoft than it has been in the past, thanks to Microsofts limited interest in graphics and photo editing software. Perhaps the two companies will fiercely (and stupidly, if you ask me) compete or maybe each can see it has something the other needs. Microsofts has apps and servers, and while Adobes the controls PDF format and technology. It might be best for each company to meet the other halfway. But even if Microsoft doesnt react, 2005 will be an interesting year for Adobe Systems and perhaps the best year its Acrobat portable document technology has ever had. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, reviews and analysis about productivity and business solutions.

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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