Monday, June 05, 2006

Microsoft and Adobe: Leaving the way for Metro?

Ted may be starting to sound a little paranoid after Microsoft's announcement about dropping PDF but who can blame him?

Update: Brian has stated this is Adobe's issue, not Microsoft's.

It certainly is strange. Not supporting PDF is kind of like having a music player that doesn't support MP3. Of course, since Microsof also won't support ODF, that means their one hope for a "global" format is Metro, talking about at the recent HEC. There's a spec here.

From a developer perspective, having the entire doc format done in XML will make it easier for VFP developers to write tools that export data but that's something being planned for interfacing with regular Office docs anyways, right? The big downside is that it immediately locks you into the Win platform. O/S debates aside, that wouldn't be bad if Windows supported every device you used but that ratio is getting smaller, not larger (unless your home is outfitted with a Windows Media Centre, Win SmartPhone, XBox 360 along with your regular computer). Now I'm sure some people do live in those homes but there are just as many who are discovering Macs and other alternatives for their home automation enjoyments and how are they going to enjoy sharing documents between environments?

Since anyone can readily support PDF (as Ted points out, GhostScript is free), the only answer I can think of is that they are doing a "well, we'll just do our own thing" again. A bully move - but unfortunately, one that could put the nail into the Office coffin unless it plays out right.

In a number of clients that I go to, they still haven't moved up to Office 2003 because their corporate standard is something other than Microsoft. They buy Office to ensure they can work with others but their "standard" word processor and spreadsheet is something else (although these days, email is the "real" word processor alternative to Word). By not giving them a real compelling reason to upgrade to Office 2007 (and PDF support would arguably be it), some offices may find themselves 7 years behind the current version. And while I, like Craig, admit that the Office 2007 UI is cool, it's not everywhere (note that the MS Project Team said that they "decided to stay with the core user interface have shipped in the past") - instead offering cool features like Visual Reports and better business templates.

Why is that? Wouldn't the user interface changes (designed to make complex tasks easier to accomplish) be a cinch for a complex task like Project Management? My immediate thought is that the target audience for Project are companies that spend millions of dollars on training anyways so the benefits of "simplying complex tasks in the UI" is redundant. They're going to be spending the money on training anyways - so why not put the development dollars into an actual business benefit as they've done? But the same could apply to the rest of Office? If Office's main customers (read: the ones who make it a cash cow) are corporate and government (the ones who will send everyone away on training), will the new user interface be a real reason to upgrade? PDF output certainly could have been. So now the question is - why would a company choose to upgrade?

Update: If you don't think the reason for the new UI was ease of use, check here. Jensen Harris' Office UI blog expressly states "our design goal was to require no training at all"

Whoa - I've covered a lot in this one post. I think I'll leave it for now to come back to individual topics later.


Steven Black said...

Andrew, please, who cares about Office? Here's why: I interact with between 20 and 40 different companies in a typical year and I'd say based on what I see (which is admittedly anectdotal) that Office 2000 is still used in over half the companies, with some using Office 2002. I have still not interfaced with a single customer that had Office 2003 and, even if they did, who would notice? I'm still using Office 2000 with some office 2002 components, BTW, and honestly, I couldn't care less. So when you say "using old version", what you are really saying is "not on the Microsoft boat ride" and, from my perspective, this is an excellent way to be. Microsoft is less relevant than ever...

Ted Roche said...

"Ted may be starting to sound a little paranoid after Microsoft's announcement about dropping PDF but who can blame him?"

Thanks. My question is why Microsoft backed off? Isn't PDF an open standard? What rights of Adobe's were they infringing upon that gave Adobe enough leverage to demand Microsoft back off? And having fought Stacker, Lotus, IBM, the US DOJ and the EU to a standstill in the courts, what's a pipsqueak like Adobe got that makes MSFT concede? It's a very strange circumstance, and there's more going on than hits the papers. I suspect that Microsoft and Adobe have patent and "intellectual property" exchange contracts that include some form of non-compete. But that's just speculation.

Ted Roche said...

btw, many of my clients have been using PDF Creator for years to generate PDFs, or using PDF995 in corporate environments where they needed TS support. No need to wait for Microsoft. Great products!

Andrew MacNeill said...

One of the big issues I see (and heard from Cnet's Buzz out loud) is that Adobe's threat was "if you don't, we'll go to the EC and complain".

The DOJ means nothing to MS but the EC does - so obviously the threat from Adobe worked.

Andrew MacNeill said...


I agree that Office 2000 is still the main stay so I always am amazed that Office is still Microsoft's cash cow - I just don't see how and I think by pulling these types of features, they reduce it even more.

Microsoft won big when Word became the defacto Windows word processor (Excel already was) and no one still comes close to PowerPoint but after that, the other tools just aren't "killer office apps". Outlook came close but now it's overbloated and unreliable.

I like to upgrade to see what's out there but otherwise, your "relevant" comment is bang on.