Adobe to Sue Microsoft for PDF Feature?

Microsoft and Adobe appear to be headed for court after talks to include PDF support in Office 2007 broke down, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday. The dispute has been brewing for the past four months, Microsoft's lead counsel Brad Smith disclosed.

Smith said Adobe threatened to sue in Europe, and that the company was preparing for that eventuality. Adobe wants the feature removed and offered separately, which Microsoft has done. However, it also wants Microsoft to charge for it, which the Redmond company refuses to do.

While Adobe is not commenting directly, it says it is concerned Microsoft may use its monopoly position to lure users away from Adobe's own software. It would not confirm Smith's assertion that the company was planning on a lawsuit.

The issue seems to center around the saving of PDF. Word, Excel and PowerPoint could all be saved in the ubiquitous format through Office 2007. Such a feature could hurt Adobe, the company will likely claim, as its popular Acrobat software performs the same function.

"Increased partner competition comes from Microsoft integrating into Office or Windows stuff separately offered by other software developers. In the case of Adobe, PDF integrated into Office 2007 could deliver a double competitive blow," commented Jupiter Research senior analyst Joe Wilcox.

"First, there is Microsoft giving away for free something that Adobe now charges for. Second, PDF comes to Office at the same time Microsoft will make available its own competing technology. Presumably, Microsoft would make the experience of using its rival "Metro" technology better than PDF, at least within Office."

However, Adobe has freely offered the specifications on PDF to other companies. Apple's Mac OS X operating system has built in support for reading and saving of PDF files.

Microsoft said Adobe's complaints mean that Office 2007 would likely not be permitted to support the feature. The next version of the productivity suite is due by early next year.

"The story, whether uncovered or leaked, lets Microsoft take the position of the aggrieved party. Already, several major news services have picked up the story, which portrays Microsoft as the wronged party," added Wilcox. "Thing is, the story is much more complex...Microsoft has significantly stepped up competition--not against rivals like Apple or Google--but with longstanding partners like Adobe and Symantec."

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