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Bowing To Adobe, Microsoft Strips PDF Support From 2007 Office

Microsoft is getting rid of the popular "Save as PDF" feature.

To appease Adobe, Microsoft is planning to remove from Office 2007 the much-requested “save as PDF” feature found in the suite's most recent beta release, a Microsoft executive said Friday.

Microsoft's confirmation of plans to alter Office 2007's PDF support followed a report in Friday's Wall Street Journal chronicling a breakdown in talks between the two companies about Microsoft's plans to embrace Adobe's PDF technology. Adobe has threatened to take legal action against Microsoft in Europe, according to the WSJ report.

"Out relationship with Adobe is very important, so we did want to take steps to address their concerns," Microsoft spokeswoman Stacy Drake said about the planned changes to Office 2007.

Microsoft's latest Office 2007 beta includes both PDF and its own rival XPS document format among the options for exporting data. In talks with Microsoft over the past several months, Adobe expressed concern that Microsoft's PDF and XPS moves would significantly cut into Adobe's market, which includes distribution of its Acrobat products for reading and working with PDFs.

Consequently, Microsoft no longer plans to include PDF export as a default option in Office 2007, Drake said. Users who want it will need to visit Microsoft's Web site and download a patch to restore the functionality.

Microsoft is also giving PC manufacturers the option to remove XPS from the Windows Vista versions they distribute on their PCs. If OEMs do choose to exclude XPS, consumers can restore it with a patch from Microsoft. The move is aimed at addressing objections to technology bundling, the practice that has landed Microsoft in legal trouble in the past.

Microsoft's concessions may not let it avoid a legal showdown with Adobe. Microsoft's general counsel told the WSJ that Adobe has threatened legal action unless Microsoft agrees to charge for the PDF support patch, a step it refuses to take. Adobe's spokeswoman did not confirm or deny to the WSJ that the company is considering legal action.

Adobe representatives did not return calls Friday for comment.

Adobe has in the past positioned PDF as an open standard and allowed other software developers to directly incorporate support for it into their products. Apple's Mac OS X includes native PDF support, and both StarOffice and OpenOffice include built-in "export to PDF" options.

"Adobe publishes the PDF standard in its entirety and makes it available for free, without restrictions, to anyone who cares to use it," Adobe Senior Director of Public Policy Michael Engelhardt wrote last year in a letter to a Massachusetts state senator. "No one needs permission from Adobe to build their own product with the PDF standard."

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