Microsofts Metro May Not Kill Adobe PDF After All

Opinion: Microsoft's demo at WinHEC for Longhorn's printing and document architecture, "Metro," looks promising. But getting software and hardware vendors to join the party may be tough.

Adobe Systems top brass cant seem to catch a break. Last week, company execs were riding high with the acquisition of competitor Macromedia for $3.4 billion. Now, following Bill Gates showing of Microsofts forthcoming "Metro" document format and print architecture to developers at WinHEC in Seattle, some analysts say the end is near for Adobe PDF.

That "near" is relative, since the technology wont make its way into the market until late 2006 with the release of Windows Longhorn. In the past, Microsoft had told partners that it was planning to provide some form of document-management capability in its next-generation operating system.

However, the exact implementation was unclear, as Longhorns feature set kept slipping. At WinHEC (Windows Hardware Engineering Conference), hardware developers—that is, printer manufacturers—discovered that the architecture code-named Metro was the solution.

However, Microsoft officials in Seattle denied that the company is taking aim at Adobe with Metro.

"One aspect of what were addressing with Metro is fixed document format, which happens to be tied into [Longhorns presentation subsystem] Avalon and XAML [Avalons XML Applied Markup Language]," Microsofts lead product manager for Windows, Greg Sullivan, explained to Microsoft Watch.

/zimages/2/28571.gifClick here to read more about Microsofts "Metro" and analysts reactions to the demonstration at WinHEC.

The Metro architecture certainly will provide a number of features associated with PDF and Adobes PostScript page-rasterizing engine, including screen-to-printer fidelity of images and text. From the report, Microsoft officials look to get printer manufacturers writing new controllers that will be optimized for the architecture.

But good luck to companies seeking success meeting the "high-fidelity needs of the digital imaging marketplace" with the technology, as expressed in a statement by RIP (raster-image processor) vendor Global Graphics SA at WinHEC. The company demonstrated a native RIP for Metro.

PDF and PostScript are more than technologies. Rather, they are longstanding content software platforms used by professional content creators, publishers as well as enterprise and consumers.

Look at your network printer: It likely sports a PostScript interpreter. PDF is the foundation of many professional publishing workflows and it even forms the graphic underpinnings of the Quartz Extreme graphics engine used in Apples OS X, including the "Tiger" release due at the end of the week.

So, Microsoft may have to wait until Metro printing gains traction with customers before printer vendors will be willing to spend the resources needed for new printer controllers.

After all, the older GDI printing code will work, just more slowly, perhaps. And manufacturers could be wary given the recent history of Longhorn changes and Microsofts sometimes hot-and-cold support for peripheral technologies.

/zimages/2/28571.gifRead the full story on Microsofts Metro May Not Kill Adobe PDF After All