Microsoft announced its latest PDF plans over the weekend, on the heels of its Global Most Valuable Professional (MVP) summit. According to Microsoft executives, Microsoft decided to add PDF-export functionality to the version of Office due out late next year at the request of its customers.
"Requests for PDF functionality in Office represent the #2 request when customers interact with our worldwide support organization," said Steven Sinofsky, senior vice president for Office, in an article on Microsofts Web site.
Office 12 will output PDF documents compatible with any PDF viewer that supports version 1.4 of the public Adobe PDF specification, Microsoft said. PDF documents created with Office 12 will be able to contain live hyperlinks.
Office 12 PDF documents will be accessible to screen readers, the company said. Microsoft SharePoint-related products will be able to index PDF documents for use in enterprise content management scenarios, Microsoft added.
Acknowledging that Microsoft has lagged competitors, such as OpenOffice and Corel WordPerfect Office, with its PDF-export support, some industry watchers nonetheless seemed to have been caught off-guard by Microsofts PDF play.
"I am surprised by this move," said Rob Helm, director of research with Directions on Microsoft. "It seems to strengthen the role of PDF as a neutral document format, and weaken the role of the binary Office formats. The Office team must have concluded that the binary Office formats have already been fatally weakened."
However, Helm noted, "Its possible that adding PDF will also take some revenue away from Adobe, which has one of the most widely-used PDF add-ons to Office. The two companies are competing more sharply in document management, forms processing, and Web graphics design, so taking away PDF revenue might have made business sense to Microsoft."
Analysts also were of divided opinions about the extent to which the recent decision by the chief information officer of Massachusetts to ban Microsoft Office as an approved document format might have played into Microsofts plans for PDF support in Office 12.