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Adobe's Bruce Chizen Isn't Daunted By Microsoft

Neither ODF Nor the XML Reference Schema Present Any Threat to Adobe, Claims Its CEO

Now that Microsoft has validated a document format that is not theirs, but one that is Adobe's - PDF - what will become of the Adobe revenue stream normally associated with PDFs?  "What we have done over the last five years is added functionality beyond PDF creation in our product line-up," Adobe CEO Bruce Chizen (pictured)  told an interviewer from the Managing Technology @ Wharton section of the Wharton Business School Web site recently. 

"If you look at Acrobat today," Chizen continued, "it is much more than just simple PDF creation. In fact, we have a product, called Acrobat Elements, that just does PDF creation, and it represents a relatively tiny piece of our overall revenue - less than one percent. Most customers choose to buy the more feature-rich products, Acrobat Standard and Acrobat Pro, which do annotations, digital signatures, web capture [and so on]. And many customers are buying LiveCycle, the server products for mission-critical workflows. That suggests to me that even though PDF creation will become free with products like Microsoft Office, our revenue streams will continue on."

The Wharton Business School interview highlights the breadth of Chizen's overall vision:

"Adobe's vision is grand. CEO Bruce Chizen hopes that Adobe will provide the interface for any device with a screen - 'from a refrigerator to an automobile to a video game to a computer to a mobile phone.' Such ambitions put Adobe squarely in the sights of Microsoft, which currently dominates desktop software development."

But of course Microsoft is seeking to counter Adobe by announcing a number of products competitive with Adobe's core products. Its strategy includes positioning elements of the forthcoming Windows Presentation Foundation to compete with Adobe's Acrobat and Flash applications, and potentially undercutting Adobe's profitable Acrobat product line by including PDF creation in the next version of Microsoft Office.

So non-Adobe technologies are now creating PDF in MacOS X, in StarOffice, and on Windows in Office applications.

Chizen told the Wharton interviewer that he didn't see this as insurmountably problematic. "First of all," he said, "it's somewhat flattering that Microsoft has validated a document format that is not theirs, but one that is Adobe's - which suggests that their customers were demanding that it do so. ... In fact, with more PDFs being created from Microsoft Office, it gives us an opportunity to take those PDFs and do more with them, like building mission-critical workflows around them."  

Chizen continued:

"We had anticipated for many years that the revenue we achieve around PDF creation would, at some point in time, go away. It's an open standard! There are many clones out in the marketplace today that create PDF and compete with Acrobat."
What Chizen of course knows better than anyone on the planet is that there are an enormous number of many mission-critical workflows built around PDF - everything from IRS tax forms to FDA drug regulatory submission documents to U.S. court electronic briefings. Adobe PDF ain't done yet, not by a long way.

 

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