Adobe CEO Not Threatening MS Lawsuit

A Reuters story this morning suggested that Adobe CEO Bruce Chizen, in an interview with the German financial weekly Euro am Sonntag (The Euro on Sunday), threatened to sue Microsoft if it the outcome of antitrust proceedings against that company by the European Commission did not turn out in Adobe's favor.

However, our read of a semi-decent Google translation of the actual interview fails to indicate Chizen made that pointed of a threat.

Instead, Chizen declined to exclude the possibility of legal action against Microsoft as an alternative to co-operating with it in leveling the playing field for Adobe's Portable Document Format, should Microsoft resume what Chizen described as illegal behavior.

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Last June, Adobe had complained that Microsoft's once-planned integration of its own XPS into Office 2007 could preclude Windows users from using Adobe's PDF format, which is featured in its Acrobat suite of applications. An earlier beta of O2K7 tried sharing "Save as PDF" in the same menu as "Save as XPS," though the latter was listed first.

Rather than risk a court fight, Microsoft chose to drop direct support for both portable formats, instead offering that support as a separate add-on for download from its Web site.

In the interview published last Sunday, Chizen said his company has already had two years to adapt to the reality of Microsoft offering some form of PDF functionality -- either directly or indirectly -- with Vista. But the actual translation of the format and the viewing of the documents, he said, represents a very small portion of Adobe's business. Customers still purchase Acrobat for its unique capabilities, such as live collaboration in the creation of portable documents, and the binding of completed documents to other applications.

However, Chizen remarked, whether Microsoft offers PDF functionality inside Vista or Office itself, or as a separate download, makes no difference to him. It's still offering this functionality; the question will remain, is it doing so in such a way that uses its monopoly advantage against Adobe unfairly or illegally.

When asked "But do you not exclude [the possibility of] a complaint?" Chizen responded that Adobe is always keeping watch over whether a competitor is behaving illegally or holding back. If this ended up being the case today with Microsoft and XPS, he said, Adobe would have two options: Either sue Microsoft directly, or cooperate with the EC and continue to supply it with the information it needs to pursue its case. Presently, Adobe chooses to do the latter, but it continues to look ahead.

There's a lot of "if's" in Chizen's remarks, which appear to leave it to the EC to determine the legality of Microsoft's behavior. But while Adobe maintains that behavior could still negatively impact its business, Chizen made it clear he does not believe it could go so far as to cripple it entirely. Toward the end of the interview, Chizen reminded the reporter that Adobe's business model for PDF as well as Flash relies on the success of developer tools, "increasing the spread of these technologies that drives the demand and, thereby, our business."

Besides the PDF controversy, Chizen was reminded during the interview, Microsoft keeps becoming bigger competition for Adobe, including in the fields of digital photo editing and diagramming software. Doesn't that create new fears for Adobe? Chizen was asked.

"Naturally I'm worried about Microsoft. Every day," responded Chizen in German, with BetaNews translating from Google-ese. "That company's a monopoly with almost unlimited financial possibilities. Microsoft has tried again and again to attack our business. Already, they accomplished this for 20 years. They began by trying to offshoot our PostScript page description language, then against Photoshop, then Illustrator, and now Acrobat. But every time they've tried, they completely missed the mark. Every time. As long as we're better and faster with our innovations, and continue listening to our customers, we'll stay out in front. Provided, of course, our competition doesn't compete using illegal methods."

At another point in the interview, Chizen praised Google for helping to change the business model of the Internet, as well as for occupying much of Microsoft's time and effort, helping Adobe concentrate on other things. He called Google "at the same time, our heat shield and an important partner," citing Google's choice of Flash for streaming presentations over Google Video.

There's no way Adobe could offer application-like services over the Web, like Google does, using its current suite of applications, Chizen said. A Photoshop-over-the-Web, for instance, would still be way too slow. However, Google applications such as Picasa have opened his eyes to the fact that it might be lunacy, he said, if Adobe didn't find some way to adapt that model to its own somehow.

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