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Tuesday, 06 June 2006 18:16

Microsoft is a 1000 pound gorilla with a limp

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A poll of a reasonable sample of computer users shows that a majority want Adobe to allow Microsoft to save Office 2007 files in PDF format. However, there is also a sizeable proportion of users against the idea.

The iTWire Poll asked the question: Should Adobe allow Office 2007 to save files in PDF format? Of 478 respondents to the poll, 282 (59%) answered yes, 196 (41%) answered no.

Regardless of whether you believe the poll to be accurate or whether you believe Adobe is in the right and Microsoft is in the wrong, there are indisputable facts that need to be considered on this question.

Firstly, it would be very surprising if any intending users of Office 2007 would not want the capability to save documents in PDF format. It would also be a pretty safe bet that they would not be willing to pay extra for the privilege, given the already hefty price tag on Office 2007.

Secondly, Adobe already allows Mac and Open Office users to save files to freely save to PDF. So it would seem that Microsoft is being singled out because of one of two reasons or both. Microsoft is the massively dominant office productivity tools vendor and it has a rival document format called XPS.

It has previously been established that Adobe would stand to lose relatively little revenue if it allowed Office 2007 users to save simple PDF files – perhaps 1% maximum. The theory that Microsoft would try to crush Adobe by stealth, by making it easier for its users to save to XPS format doesn’t really stand up to scrutiny. Microsoft’s users have been demanding PDF not XPS. Microsoft would be foolish to ignore them. Besides users can still save Word files to PDF using a number of free packages in the marketplace.

What then is Adobe’s motivation behind this and why has the company remained silent this long? Is there an antitrust suit looming in Europe where Microsoft is not exactly the favourite company of regulators? The last thing Microsoft needs is another lawsuit on top of the one initiated by Symantec.

In fact, is there any relationship between the Symantec and Adobe actions? Both companies are former Microsoft supporters. Both have a sense that Microsoft intends to move into their territory. In the case of Symantec, it may already be too late so it is making a desperate bid to stop or at least slow the release of Vista.

Seeing what is happening with Symantec, Adobe may feel that the time to act against Microsoft is sooner rather than later. By taking away a much sought after feature of Office 2007, it may hinder the new Microsoft product’s take-up. An antitrust suit in Europe where Microsoft is vulnerable may further weaken any pretensions that Microsoft harbours to move into Adobe’s Acrobat territory. Adobe’s silence has been astonishing and probably means a lawsuit is in the wind.

While Microsoft is the 1000 pound gorilla, it is not as invulnerable as everybody imagines. Its growth is stagnating and the company is limping along. It is getting whipped in the internet space and its games business loses money. The company desperately needs the injection of growth which Vista and Office 2007 can provide. Right now there appears to be two fairly large software companies doing their best to hinder the success of that.

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Stan Beer

 

Stan Beer co-founded iTWire in 2005. With 30 plus years of experience working in IT and Australian technology media, Beer has published articles in most of the IT publications that have mattered, including the AFR, The Australian, SMH, The Age, as well as a multitude of trade publications.

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