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Adobe Ramps Up PDF Standards Push

On the eve of the unveiling of Microsoft’s Windows Vista operating system, Adobe announced it will push for its ubiquitous PDF format to become an international standard.

Adobe said it will submit the full PDF 1.7 specification to AIIM, the Enterprise Content Management Association (ECMA), for publication by the International Organization of Standards (ISO).

Already several subsets of the document format for specific industries are ISO standards. PDF/A for archivists and PDF/X for Exchange are standards while PDF/E for engineers and PDF/UA for Universal Access are proposed standards.

The full PDF 1.7 specification will join PDF for Healthcare managed by AIIM.

In a statement Kevin Lynch, Adobe’s senior vice president and chief software architect, called the decision “the next logical step in the evolution of PDF from defacto standard to a formal de jure standard.”

Although Adobe published the complete PDF specification in 1993, standardization by an outside organization reinforces its "commitment to openness," the company said. Adobe added that it was offering PDF as a standard because governments wanted open formats, which will in turn expand the market for PDF.

Beyond the needs of government, the move is seen as a response to Microsoft.

"By going for universal standardization across the entire PDF platform, Adobe would help assure its existing base of customers in corporate and government markets that despite the launch of Vista, the PDF file format will continue to thrive," said Tom Klaff, CEO of Surety, an electronic records safety firm.

Adobe denied its move was a response to Microsoft’s XML Paper Specification, or XPS, also wending its way though the standards process.

"XML is an unproven technology with no installed base, and it remains to be seen whether it ever could catch up" to the PDF format, Sarah Rosenbaum, Adobe’s director of product management, told internetnews.com.

Microsoft was not immediately available for comment.

The furor between the two began last year when Microsoft failed to agree to Adobe’s demand it remove PDF features from Office and Vista.

Soon afterward, Adobe joined Symantec pressing the EU to act against the software giant’s upcoming Vista operating system. The EU’s response as reported earlier by internetnews.com: "Microsoft and Adobe need to talk to each other."