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Acrobat-killer Submitted to Standards Body 326

Flying Wallenda writes "Did Adobe make a tactical blunder when it complained to the European Union about Microsoft including support for its XML Paper Specification (XPS) in Windows Vista and Office 2007? Now that Microsoft has decided to submit its 'PDF killer' to a standards-setting organization, Adobe may be regretting its decision. 'Microsoft is looking again at its license in order to make it compatible with open source licenses, which means that the "covenant not to sue" will likely be extended to cover any intellectual property dispute stemming from the simple use or incorporation of XPS. The end result is that using XPS may be considerably more attractive for developers now that the EU has apparently expressed concerns over the license.'"
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Acrobat-killer Submitted to Standards Body

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  • Word Dilution (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 16, 2006 @06:50PM (#16460563)
    Pretty soon the word 'killer' will have lost its original meaning. In fact, it will be a compliment to be called a 'killer' because it means you were a solution for a problem that already had a widely popular solution.

    Yet you overcame that and somehow became the new solution until you yourself were killed. And your functionality was conveyed specifically by saying '<competing solution> killer.' They couldn't even take the time to mention what it was you did.

    Slashdot uses this way too much [].

    Killer [].
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 16, 2006 @06:51PM (#16460575)
      Fresh from Hans Reiser's hard drive, yo!
    • by BoberFett ( 127537 ) on Monday October 16, 2006 @07:56PM (#16461381)
      I'm not a murderer, your honor. I simply removed the occupant of that home so a newer, more functional citizen can occupy that dwelling.
  • The Killers (Score:4, Insightful)

    by HarvardFrankenstein ( 635329 ) on Monday October 16, 2006 @06:53PM (#16460599) Homepage
    I find it telling that so much of what big companies like Microsoft try to create is intended to be some kind of Killer. Rather than come up with something brand new that the market has never seen before, they wait for someone else to do just that, and then they try to Kill it and claim its glory for themselves.
    • That's the basic Microsoft business tactic.

      "Embrace, extend and extinguish"

      as the Deptartment of Justice accused Microsoft of actually stating in internal memos. Like you say, it's alot cheaper for a company like Microsoft to steal someone else's market than to gamble in creating a new one. _extinguish []
    • by Cylix ( 55374 )
      It's that primitive hunter's instinct inside of us all!

      Just remember, you keep what you kill.
  • Adobe is screwed (Score:3, Interesting)

    by DigitlDud ( 443365 ) on Monday October 16, 2006 @06:57PM (#16460649)
    XPS support is being built into new models from all major printer manufacturers. It is lot more modern than PDF/PS and does a better job supporting fancier documents with features like transparencies and gradients. And now apparently its going to be open and standardized as well. It looks like MS nailed this one.
    • What does XPS do better than PDF? Can you link to a list of features or, better yet, a feature comparison?
      • by cortana ( 588495 )
        It will be built in to Windows and available by default without requiring the user to go to the effort of installing third party software.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      All the "PDF killers" so far have been aimed at the public's perception of PDF: A screen reader that can preserve layouts and print them. But that perception is very outdated. PDF survives because it isn't just a screen reader, it is a defacto standard for CMYK exchange so that print shops can make color-separated output no matter what app generated it. It also can be interactive, with buttons and multimedia. It supports form fields. Everybody thinks Adobe is Photoshop but really, in terms of revenue, Adobe
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by DigitlDud ( 443365 )
        Yeah I'm reading over the specification right now and the color features are pretty extensive. There's support for storing color information in many different color spaces including CMYK.

        There's nothing in there for interactivity though, it's strictly a fixed document format.
      • by TheNetAvenger ( 624455 ) on Monday October 16, 2006 @10:34PM (#16462839)
        Does XPS do all that? Does XPS do CMYK? Can XPS generate the equivalent of PDF/X-1a, an ISO standard for advertising specs required by Time Inc. and other big media sites?

        Ok, by now everyone reading this has surely looked up XPS and can see that it has not only several features that PDF technology doesn't, but it leapfrogs the PDF/Postscript technology in many areas, even including not static publishing concepts that will be a part of the upcoming generation with Electronic Inks.

        XPS also is going to hurt Adobe hard in the printer and publishing industry. There are already a number of consumer printers with XPS technology coming to the market and there are also many digital presses that will offer XPS instead of PDF, because it is free to do so instead of paying the Adobe tax.

        So for large publishers there is already a bit of a buzz about it, as it may reduce the digital press costs without the Adobe licensing and they are also looking at some of the new features of XPS that will speed up production and produce better quality output easier. (Less need for rasterization and conversion from the original artwork, better font support, etc.)

        One of the biggest problems in the digital prining industry now is making sure the content they are producing 'outputs' properly in PDF/Poscript. And this is a BIG issue.

        For example I can create Brochure now in AI or CorelDraw that will output with clipping problems when it goes to PDF format because PDF just doesn't handle all the features that full scale vector/layer illustration software offers.

        Now when trying to get this to a digital PDF/Postscript based press, this is a MAJOR issue, and the artwork has to be complexity reduced, have the clipping fixed, and often most of the Brochure ends up being rasterized at the press's resolution because the Vector and Font support in a PDF fails miserably.

        These types of problems have been big issues in the publising/printing community for a long time, and Postscript v3/PDF was supposed to help, but instead things have often gotten worse. So why even have PDF based press when we (as publishers) end up rasterizing the entire brochure and artwork and are basically sending a PDF Bitmap to the device so it prints as designed?

        Here is where XPS steps in and takes control of the ball, it has the preservation because of the extra features in the specification, so there is less fighting with fonts and less rasterization.

        There is also the factor that no special software is needed, as Vista does all the XPS work inherently, which opens the door up for more flexibility in design software used as well. (Yes OSX does Postscript/PDF, and even WindowsXP does Postscript printer output, but there is a world of difference in the way Vista handles the from screen to document to output device because of the XAML and XPS technologies.)

        XPS is being seen as a welcome fix to many Adobe PDF/Postscript issues in the printing industry.

        To fully understand how XPS/XAML technologies work and also to see what they offer than PDF doesn't, you just need to go read the XPS specifications, also do a search on the printer and press manufacturers that are planning on XPS devices and why they see XPS has a good technology.
    • Standards (Score:5, Interesting)

      by jmorris42 ( 1458 ) * <> on Monday October 16, 2006 @07:33PM (#16461153)
      > XPS support is being built into new models from all major printer manufacturers.

      If so it would be a major reason to support XPS. If it is just some crap in the Windows drivers forget it. Just checked HP's site and didn't see it mentioned.

      The reason it would be great to get it in printers is that it would force it to be a STANDARD, unlike PDF. MP3 is a standard in that any conforming stream will play on any conforming player. New encoders can be developed but the resulting streams must be playable on ANY player adhering to the original MP3 spec. Adobe never figured that out with PDF, requiring a continual upgrade treadmill to newer readers and adding new features in non backwards compatible ways. Even though some printers DO support a version of PDF, it isn't usable for long after purchase.

      If it doesn't get embedded into printers I'd trust Microsoft even less to publish a spec and then stick with it.;
      • I was referring to what this video says about XPS: 7 []

        MS shows off their prototype XPS printers and mentions that major printer manufacturers are signed on.
      • A bigger problem, in my experience, is that when you give a PDF file to a commercial printer, you run into problems like these:

        1. They have undocumented implementation limits, which are intended to indirectly limit the amount of CPU time it can take to render a page. For instance, they may have an undocumented limit on the number of layers.
        2. They fail to support the PDF standard fully, not because they're using an older version of PDF, but because of bugs or limitations in the proprietary rendering program
    • Citation Please (Score:5, Interesting)

      by maggard ( 5579 ) <> on Monday October 16, 2006 @08:05PM (#16461479) Homepage Journal
      XPS support is being built into new models from all major printer manufacturers.


      Name them.

      Seriously, I've been looking. I can't find a reference from any printer maker regarding a model with XPS driver support built in.

      You'd think someone other then Microsoft would be at least mentioning this, unless it were just MS blowing hot air, which we know Waggener Edstrom [] (MS's PR agency) would never do...

    • by lahvak ( 69490 )
      Ehm, pdf already supports full alpha transparency and gradients. Postscript doesn't but pdf does.

      If MS really does open the standard, I think it will be good, because it will force Adobe to actually compete in the market. Maybe they will actually make Adobe reader work faster, and stop crippling some of its features in an attempt to make you buy Acrobat Pro.
  • I love adobe (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 16, 2006 @06:57PM (#16460653)
    Forcing a reboot to update a file viewer is pure quality and genius.

    I hope they die real soon.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by DigitlDud ( 443365 )
      Not to mention installing a stupid pre-loader in your system startup and freezing the entire viewer when downloading data.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by gilgongo ( 57446 )
      The sheer arrogance, stupidity and breathtaking immaturity of the design of the Acrobat Reader and its supporting products is beyond amazing.

      Some of its features are on the face of it quite good. But forcing reboots, nagging the user to pay for inexplicable "enhancements"... shifting vocabulary across releases, random "features" that offer no value to anyone... it's just painful, painful software.

      If Microsoft destroy them and in the process make sure that Vista's impending failure results in us all using ni
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Not to mention that it write-locks the file you're viewing, even though it has read the whole thing into memory. It gets tirng having to close/pdflatex/open all time instead of just refresh. Imagine, for example, if your browser did that while you were working on a web page.
  • by vitalyb ( 752663 ) on Monday October 16, 2006 @06:58PM (#16460679) Homepage
    A dead human acrobat submitted his body?
    Someone killed a human acrobat and submitted his body?
    The murderer was submitted to some kind of law-enforcement?

    That is late at night here, however.
  • I'm amazed that Brandon Flowers doesn't have Bill Gates on some sort of block-list by now.
  • About 6 years ago... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by headkase ( 533448 ) on Monday October 16, 2006 @07:00PM (#16460707)
    This is what mainstream open-source was clamoring for Microsoft to do... Now Microsoft is standardizing a wide variety of code and documents. So good. Ten years from now when a terabyte database seems kind of small but the information in it is marked up in the as standard a form as ASCII is today then processing huge amounts of information will be as easy as it gets. Once information is standardized then it opens the doors to a wide variety of companies to manipulate the information - in effect providing a "service" to the owner of the database. Open-source, closed, doesn't matter when you have standardized tubes connecting modules and information. A network-centric service economy is probably where we'll go but as Niels Bohr said "Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future."
  • by Otter ( 3800 )
    This writeup is (once you get through the -killer nonsense) suspiciously pro-Microsoft. Shouldn't it be something like "Micro$oft Tries To Patent Paper!"?
    • This writeup is (once you get through the -killer nonsense) suspiciously pro-Microsoft. Shouldn't it be something like "Micro$oft (sic) Tries To Patent Paper!"?

      I seem to recall that on /., anything Pro-Microsoft is suspiciously Pro-Microsoft.

      Wow, for such intelligent people, we sure are objective and skeptical.

      • by drsmithy ( 35869 )

        I seem to recall that on /., anything Pro-Microsoft is suspiciously Pro-Microsoft.

        It's more like anything that isn't obviously anti-Microsoft, is suspiciously pro-Microsoft.

  • Details? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nine-times ( 778537 ) <> on Monday October 16, 2006 @07:02PM (#16460727) Homepage

    I always wonder what it really means when Microsoft makes "open standards" and such, ever since the MSO XML debacle. I'll wait to hear some details that confirm that there aren't any dirty tricks involved.

    Even so, I'm not sure why I would want to jump on this new standard at the moment. PDF is widely supported, and does a good job for the things it's meant for. Will Microsoft make a program to do the things that Acrobat does? Will it provide different ways to optimize quality/size? Will it work with the companies in the print business to make sure it provides everything they need, and works on their equipment on the same level as PDF? Because as much as PDF is nice for trading print documents online, it's real strength is the support from professional printing industries.

    So that's what Microsoft needs to do to be on equal footing with Adobe, which still doesn't tell us why anyone should switch.

    • Remember that PDF is a container format, sort of like MOV, MPEG, AVI, etc. If MS is making a replacement for this, it says nothing about the elements contained inside their container format -- most likely, it will only support elements that just so happen to be created by MS software. MS has noting to fear from making the spec freely available; it is solely a platform on which they can promote their proprietary file formats. Expect DRM to play an important role in XPS.
    • by RelliK ( 4466 )
      This "standard" is going to be the same "standard" as MS Office XML, CIFS, .net, Kerberos, and all the other "standards" Microsoft has ever promoted. They even managed to bastardize ASCII, and yet some gullible people still jump up and down every time Microsoft announces a new "standard".
  • XPS looks to me like a marginally superior format to PDF. It's XML-based, which means easier parsing as well as readability with a regular text editor, and it strips out PDF's stupid nonsense like forms and multimedia which is best left to web pages.

    That being said, I'm not sure it's worth splitting the market with a similar competing format just for these advantages.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by kill-1 ( 36256 )
      The real interesting thing about XML-based file formats is that you can easliy generate files dynamically, especially with technologies like XSLT.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by pilkul ( 667659 )
        I know, XSLT is the greatest thing since sliced bread. It's even a functional language!
        • by kill-1 ( 36256 )
          For certain applications XSLT really IS the greatest thing since sliced bread, but I would recommend against using it as programming langauge.
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by GigsVT ( 208848 )
          Those that don't learn from the past are doomed to repeat it. Adobe moved from PS (a language) to PDF (a page description language), because making your page description language a programming language has some serious drawbacks.

          Procedural generation of content isn't worth the extra hassle of getting programming language style bugs (stack over/underflows, infinite loops, etc) in your documents.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by pilkul ( 667659 )
            Look up what XML [], XSLT [] and functional languages [] are; you're a bit confused as to what's going on here. XPS is a pure page description language with no programming language features. XSLT is a programming language of sorts, which happens to both be composed of XML and process XML, but it is not the page description language.
      • The real interesting thing about XML-based file formats is that you can easliy generate files dynamically, especially with technologies like XSLT.

        That's not really an advantage over PDF, since you can easily generate PDFs with XML, XSL formatting objects and free tools. Plus there are lots and lots of other tools that already generate PDFs in various ways and from various formats.

        • by kill-1 ( 36256 )
          It is a certain advantage, because you have complete control over the native file format. No need for an artificial XML abstraction layer.
          • In most cases, I think you'll already have an XML abstraction layer, which you'll convert to XPS with XSLT. But you can also just use XSLT to convert to XSLfo. The only advantage of XPS that I can see is if XPS is more expressive than XSLfo.

    • ``it strips out PDF's stupid nonsense like forms and multimedia which is best left to web pages.''

      You just wait. I don't think that's going to last long. In fact, this might well mark the start of a feature race of XPS vs. PDF, leaving us with even more bloated formats, and open source renderers lagging miles behind the proprietary competition.
  • anything is better (Score:4, Insightful)

    by grapeape ( 137008 ) < minus author> on Monday October 16, 2006 @07:08PM (#16460817) Homepage
    Will this one start faster and not bug me every other time I run it to install some random new adobe crap I dont want or need? I the answer to either is yes concider me ready to convert.
    • If you don't like Adobe Reader, who do you use Adobe Reader? I use xpdf as my reader, and it doesn't have any of the problems you describe.
  • stop with the -killer suffix?

    I haven't seen a Ford-Mustang-killer, or a Conair-hairdryer-killer, or an Pepsi-Cola-killer, or an Boeing-Airbus-500-killer before. Why is the information industry the only industry with goddamn KILLER APPLICATIONS or <FOOBAR>-KILLERS? No fucking wonder citizens and customers think software and hardware manufacturer are even less funny than Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck. </rant>
    • Because they really like Brandon Flowers' band.
    • Why is the information industry the only industry with goddamn KILLER APPLICATIONS [...]?

      A "Killer Application" is so great that people will go out and buy hardware just to use it. Lotus 1-2-3 and WordPerfect caused lots of people to buy IBM PCs back in the day. Pagemaker and Photoshop caused lots of people to buy Macs. E-Mail and the World-Wide Web caused lots of every-day people to go buy Windows PCs. I don't know much about gaming, but I'd imagine that Halo was a "Killer Application" in that it cause

  • by Wesley Felter ( 138342 ) <> on Monday October 16, 2006 @07:20PM (#16460973) Homepage
    Hey, it worked great for .NET.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 16, 2006 @07:21PM (#16460995)
    It's unreasonably hard to generate quality PDF programmatically.
    Either you have resort to using the virtual printer driver supplied with Acrobat, or you have to typeset your document to PostScript format using TeX or whatever.
    And if you use the virtual printer driver, forget about interactive features and full-text searching.
    Editing PDFs is a nightmare - PostScript allows way too much flexibility for a 'portable' format.

    I don't know much about XPS, but organizing the document as a set of zipped XML files seems to be a step in the right direction.
    • how about htmldoc takes a bunch of html files creates a pdf with hyperlinks in it. along with html help workshop from ms its quite easy to go from chm to html to pdf
      htmldoc is gpl as well as commercial and included in ubuntu repositorys.

      try it pdf isnt just acrobat.
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by alx5000 ( 896642 )
        how about htmldoc takes a bunch of html files creates a pdf with hyperlinks in it. along with html help workshop from ms its quite easy to go from chm to html to pdf
        Was that a lesson for the GP on why English can be way more complicated than PDF?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by lahvak ( 69490 )
      Look around, there are bunch of libraries that generate pdf. As far as applications go, every decent desktop publishing software will generate pdf. Without that it would be pretty much useless, as pdf is de facto standard format in printing industry. As far as tex goes, if you are still typsetting to PostScript and converting to pdf, you are missing a bunch of features. Pdftex can generate pdf directly, and includes bunch of nice features that the original tex engine lacks. For graphics, there are bunc
    • by red_crayon ( 202742 ) on Tuesday October 17, 2006 @01:19AM (#16463999)
      using TeX or whatever

      And that's bad because...?

      You want a programmatic way to generate PDF,
      yet you eschew pdfTeX [], which is a
      compiled language that produces PDF as native output,
      and is a descendent of TeX, a language invented by
      Knuth, a programmatic fellow if there ever was one.
  • by Kenshin ( 43036 ) <> on Monday October 16, 2006 @07:43PM (#16461265) Homepage
    Someone better tell Dick Grayson (Batman's former Robin) about this acrobat killer. It may be the one that killed his parents.
  • Microsoft could finally prove they are not assholes. Release it with complete specs and sample output, don't require Windows libraries, allo anybody to read and write it with any software using any license, and PDF will be dead in a few months.

    It does sound better: it is output-only (which is really all we care about in PDF), it uses XML, and it supports alpha compositing like SVG does. Unfortunatly doing anything correctly means Microsoft has to admit that Open Source is not an evil cancer. Don't know if t
  • I first heard about PDF in 1995, but it wasn't until around 2000 that software existed to actually do stuff with it.

    I still don't do anything in PDF that can't be done in postscript - in fact I still just produce the postscript and only convert to PDF because not many people have heard of postscript.
  • by bigtrike ( 904535 ) on Monday October 16, 2006 @08:21PM (#16461621)
    FoxIt Reader is a great interim solution until this gets standardized. It reads PDF files and opens much faster than Acrobat. I'm not sure why Acrobat reader is so slow, but even the fastest available hardware seems to choke on it.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by ketamine-bp ( 586203 )
      foxit reader chokes at large PDF files

      example: the e-book version of Harrison's principle of internal medicine
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by multimed ( 189254 )
        I haven't tried this particular PDF, but I had noticed it choking on larger PDFs as well, but since I updated to version 2, it hasn't once failed on anything I've found yet. I recently bought a new machine and even with the crashing on some PDFs I still preferred it to crapping up my clean install with Acrobat and all the garbage that comes with it. And now, since upgrading I've been really happy with it.
  • SVG? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by RAMMS+EIN ( 578166 ) on Monday October 16, 2006 @08:22PM (#16461633) Homepage Journal
    I see a lot of posts in this discussion that say XPS is better than PDF, because it's XML and human readable and you can manipulate it with XSLT, it's going to be submitted as a standard, etc. That just makes me think: what about SVG? It's already a standard, it's XML, human readable, XSLT, etc.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by omicronish ( 750174 )

      I see a lot of posts in this discussion that say XPS is better than PDF, because it's XML and human readable and you can manipulate it with XSLT, it's going to be submitted as a standard, etc. That just makes me think: what about SVG? It's already a standard, it's XML, human readable, XSLT, etc.

      Those are the same comments people have made regarding Windows Presentation Foundation (AKA "Avalon") and XAML []. Guess what? The pages in an XPS document are XAML files represented in a strict subset of WPF. In fact,

  • for filing a false report.
  • I know it is fashionable among the Slashdot crowd to discount Acrobat as bloatware. Working as a healthcare professional, however, I really appreciate many of the features geeks may discount as bloat:

    Virtually all medical papers are available as PDFs. After downloading these, I can annotate them in Acrobat with comments; Acrobat allows me to highlight important passages. I know geeks do not like DRM, but Acrobat's DRM is why some biomedical e-books are available. Thanks to Acrobat, I carry a little library
  • DjVu has been THE "PDF killer" for many years and has become increasingly open over the last few. Why none of the major OSS players have ever put their weight behind this technology is beyond comprehension. It is better then PDF in every way (and JPG to boot)!

    I fear this says something about OSS --why in the long run it will be maginalized by monolopy's like Microsoft.
  • by jafac ( 1449 ) on Monday October 16, 2006 @09:58PM (#16462549) Homepage
    I have noting against the PDF standard - but when I view PDF files on my Mac, I set up Preview as the default application because, frankly, Preview can open a PDF file an order of magnitude faster. As a simple file-viewer, Acrobat makes PDF's the 2nd to last choice for convenience (with MS Word being the last choice, of course).

%DCL-MEM-BAD, bad memory VMS-F-PDGERS, pudding between the ears