CyberTech Rambler

June 8, 2006

MS vs Adobe… take two

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 6:46 pm

Adobe responded. Its response is that you expects from a reputable company, not the "cry baby" (or should it be "cry wolf"?) we seems to be getting a lot of  from Microsoft. The statement effectively says they are keeping all their options open.

Significantly, Adobe goes through great pain explaining that it does not comment on its relationship with partners, customer and just about anyone else. They felt that they had to response to Microsoft statement. Even then, only to the most important "litigation question" and not other allegation by Microsoft.
Andy Updegrove's take on this saga is worth reading. It explains the options both parties have with respect to PDF.

The article that carries Adobe's response is a curious one as I think the author overblows the issue when he says "Microsoft has managed to avoid a costly delay in the introduction of its Office 2007 suite of applications this January". First of all, corporate gets Office 2007 at the end of 2006, not 2007. Hence, it is not true to say that it will delay Office 2007 January debute as the first customer receive it in 2006. With this in mind, any lawsuit that Adobe made is like launching a lawsuite early in the life of a product, i.e., in the period most company expects lawsuit to be filed. 

Second, even if Adobe is to get a temporary prohibibtion order from the court, no judge will be willing to grant an outright ban on Office 2007 launch as it is totally disproportional. At best, the judge will prevent Microsoft from bundling the PDF export function with the software. Even if Adobe files the motion too late in the day for Microsoft to reprint the CD/DVDs. Microsoft can always deliver Office 2007 via other means, for example, as a download.  Moreover, if this were the case, it is likely the judge will simply ask Microsoft to set aside a huge amount of money as potential compensation for Adobe's loss and to halt factory production of the software until they remaster the CDs.

I do not think a threat of litigation on a simple "PDF export" is enough to stop Microsoft's January Launch. Updegrove's suggestion that Microsoft might had included Acrobat-like functionality not covered by PDF's governing ISO Standard is a more plausible scenario. Given Microsoft's penchant for (unnecessary) integration, it is just possible that Microsoft had integrate these functions too deeply inside Office 2007 that it cannot easily erase it if the litigation materialize. If so, it just digged itselfs a BIG hole.

Adobe's other option, floated by reports on this issue, is to ask for an antitrust investigation. Would this stop Microsoft's January launch? No. One weakness of Antitrust investigation is it is more an after-the-fact style investigation, focusing on curing market distortion and not preventing it. Furthermore any investigation will take at least two years.

I think the curious revelation from this saga, and the wild card most reports fail to catch on, is why Microsoft drops XPS support for Office 2007? They drop PDF export support because of pressure from Adobe? Possible. Drop XPS support, a Microsoft inhouse developed technology, the one it is promoting as a competitor to PDF, at a time where it has an iron clad reason on why it did not ship PDF export to regulators who care to ask, is quite frankly a seriously missed opportunity. Something I cannot see big companies doing. The reason floating around the grapevine is the fear of antitrust action. As explained before: unlikely. Developing Updegrove's idea that Microsoft is providing "Acrobat-like" functions not covered by the ISO standard will lead one to think that the two might share a common codebase and there is no quick way of separating one from another in time for January launch. Another reason is XPS might contains licensed technology from Adobe, which Microsoft is trying to expand its licensing rights to Office 2007 which Adobe exercise its legal rights to refuse. Both are more likely reasons for dropping XPS support. 

Or, lets cut it right into the heart of the arguement, Microsoft's implementation of PDF functions may be simply just different from how OpenOffice.org and other organization does it.

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