It seems that during the storm of news and blog posts about Robert Scoble and Bill Gates, I missed a couple of newsworthy events involving my employer. Last week Adobe released a press release entitled Adobe and Microsoft which is excerpted below

Adobe has been in discussions with Microsoft for some time, sharing concerns regarding features and functionality in the upcoming releases of Vista (the next version of Microsoft’s operating system) and Microsoft Office. While much of the press coverage to date has centered on disputes over PDF and XPS (a competitive technology to PDF) in MS Office and Vista, the real issue is the protection of open standards.

Adobe is committed to open standards. Adobe publishes the complete PDF specification and makes it available for free, without restrictions, without royalties, to anyone who cares to use it. Because we license the PDF specification so openly, it has become a de facto standard, used by hundreds of independent software vendors worldwide. No other specification is employed on as many hardware platforms, operating systems and applications as PDF. PDF is incorporated into a number of ISO standards, and Adobe encourages developers, independent software vendors and publishers to support and embrace it. While the specification is available publicly, customers expect Adobe to ensure that the format does not become fragmented and that competing implementations of PDF do not undermine what customers have come to expect in terms of reliable viewing and printing of PDF documents across platforms and browsers.

Microsoft has demonstrated a practice of using its monopoly power to undermine cross platform technologies and constrain innovation that threatens its monopolies. Microsoft’s approach has been to “embrace and extend” standards that do not come from Microsoft. Adobe’s concern is that Microsoft will fragment and possibly degrade existing and established standards, including PDF, while using its monopoly power to introduce Microsoft-controlled alternatives – such as XPS. The long-term impact of this kind of behavior is that consumers are ultimately left with fewer choices.

In response, Microsoft released a press release entitled Statement from Microsoft Concerning Adobe which is excerpted below

Microsoft welcomes Adobe’s reaffirmation that PDF is an open standard, made available for free, without restrictions, without royalties, to anyone who cares to use it. Adobe’s frequently stated commitment to PDF as an open standard was the basis upon which Microsoft decided to include support for saving documents in the PDF format in 2007 Microsoft Office system. Customers running Office have clearly said it would be helpful to be able to easily save documents as PDF files. Microsoft expected that Adobe would applaud, rather than object to, our support for the PDF standard in the most widely used productivity software product.

Adobe has now expressed concern that Microsoft would one day “extend” the PDF specifications. Microsoft has not extended the PDF specifications and has no interest in doing so. Our only interest is to support our customers by making it easy to export Office documents in the standard PDF format so they can be viewed in Adobe Reader and printed. Adobe is a participant in the 2007 Office system beta program and can see for itself that Microsoft has not extended the PDF specifications.

To our knowledge Adobe has not imposed limits on how third parties support the PDF format or differentiate their products through extensions. Nevertheless, Microsoft wishes to confirm that it will not extend the PDF specifications published by Adobe. Microsoft hopes that, with this assurance, Adobe will withdraw its objection to including support for PDF in 2007 Office system.

It looks like the ball is now in Adobe's court. I suspect that there is an additional [unstated] concern that the inclusion of PDF support in Microsoft Office reduces the attractiveness of Adobe's suite of products for generating PDF. It would be probably be hard to take that to court, although I've seen  cases which I thought had less merit go against Microsoft. It'll be interesting to see what the response from Adobe will be on this one.