Microsoft to Pit Metro Format Against Adobe PDF, PostScript?

Updated: Microsoft is readying a new printing document specification and set of printer drivers code-named "Metro." Due to debut as part of Windows Longhorn, 'Metro' will allow users to share, print

SEATTLE—Microsoft took the wraps off a new document-workflow technology that it is readying as part of Longhorn during the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) here on Monday.

Officially unveiled as part of Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates kick-off keynote, the new Microsoft document workflow format, code-named "Metro," sounds from initial explanations like a page-description language meant to compete with Adobes PostScript.

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Microsoft has been telling partners and software vendors for some time that it was planning to include document-management functionality as a core part of Longhorn.

Some partners said they believed that Microsoft officials were simply referring to the companys collaboration technology, SharePoint Services. Others said they thought Microsoft brass were making reference to the WinFS Windows file system that Microsoft decided to cut from Longhorn in order to have a better chance of meeting its 2006 ship-date target for the operating system.

But now it appears that Microsoft is equating Metro with its Longhorn document-management technology.

"It sure sounds like its meant as a PDF killer to me," said Roger Kay, an analyst with International Data Corp., who was at this weeks WinHEC conference. But Microsoft officials, predictably, denied that the company is gunning for Adobe with Metro.

"One aspect of what were addressing with Metro is fixed document format, which happens to be tied into (Longhorns presentation subystem) Avalon and XAML (Avalons XML Applied Markup Language)," said Microsoft lead product manager for Windows, Greg Sullivan. With its huge installed base, "PDF is not going away," Sullivan continued. "Were solving a much narrower set of challenges for IHVs (independent hardware vendors) and ISVs (independent software vendors."

Microsoft officials told WinHEC attendees that Metro is a "new fixed document format built on top of XML" that Microsoft will make available royalty-free. Microsoft is releasing publicly the specification for Metro on Monday, officials said.

According to information from Microsoft partner Global Graphics, Metro "is an open format that allows users to share, print and archive paginated-layout documents and used in document workflows."

"As a Page Description Language (PDL), Metro will offer significantly improved screen-to-print fidelity to meet knowledge worker demand for documents rich in graphics content as well as the high fidelity needs of the digital imaging marketplace," according to a Global Graphics press release. (Continued here)

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