With XPS as PDF killer, Microsoft opens second front...

Silverlight, the rich media technology that Microsoft Corp. trotted out last week, isn't Redmond's only attack on Adobe Systems Inc.'s multimedia dominance. In addition to Silverlight, touted as a potential Flash-killer, Microsoft is quietly putting the moves on Adobe's other popular consumer technology, the Portable Document Format (PDF). For more than a decade, PDF has been the most popular way of saving and exchanging static, graphics-rich documents so they can be easily read on any computer. Just as important, PDFs can be sent to any printer without the need of extra drivers, or the fear of garbled text or improperly displayed graphics.

As with Flash, Adobe gives away software to view PDFs -- in this case, the Adobe Reader (formerly Acrobat Reader) -- to consumers, in order to sell pricey software to create PDFs to graphic designers, publishers and other creative types. Adobe's entry-level Acrobat 8 Standard costs $299 per user, with higher-end versions running more. But for XML Paper Specification, or XPS -- Microsoft's new rival to PDF -- the Redmond company is making the software for free to both consumers and pros. In mid-April, Microsoft released a combination XPS reader and creator for free download. The software runs on Windows XP and both the 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows Server 2003.

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We'll see how well .NET works out after their little lawsuit Intellectual property, the double edged sword.
Anyways, if I were a betting man, I'd put all my money on Flash and PDFs, nobody gives a rat's ass about another proprietary standard. Did WMV ever take out MPEGs and MP3s? Nope. Once there's already a proprietary, but very good standard out there, people don't give a crap about the politics of it, a compressed audio file is a compressed audio file, it either sounds 'good enough' or not ... same for a XPS, how can it be any better than a PDF? Well, I bet it's not, so therefore, why am I going to use it when PDFs are ubiquitous?
We'll see, I think we'll just end up with ANOTHER document standard that enough ppl will use because it's included with the OS, such that we'll end up having XPSes scattered all over and mingled in with our PDFs.
Silverlight I just think is totally doomed and will never be used by anyone, it's not convenient really, the tools to create the content aren't free and aren't better than Flash, and again, Flash is already out there, ubiquitous. Silverlight dosen't DO anything Flash doesn't, you've already got armies of people trained in Flash, I don't think there is any compelling reason for anyone to even look at this technology unless the are already locked into developing with MS's .NET tools in which case this might be a nice addition for them. A Flash killer, it is not.

Adobe is helping Microsoft in this battle, by not releasing an update for Acrobat 8 to solve the compatibility issues with Office 2007. I can't believe that they're still "working" on the update 6 months after Office 2007 RTM. There's a workaround though, so what the update really does is to relieve the users' pain of having to saving the doc in a pre-Office-2007 format then convert it to PDF. Probably they don't care, why should they, it's not their trouble after all.

If you have Office 2007 then you can save directly to a .pdf file with the plug-in that came out some time ago.

Has Microsoft released a XPS reader and creator for Macintosh and Linux? Get back to me when the have because that is the entire point of PDF.

To win this one, MS will have to make it cross platform. There are too many Linux and Mac users out there to be ignored anymore.

Formats need to work for EVERYONE, not just windows customers

Hmm... :)

I read the whole Silverlight SDK and it is really impressive... But still I don't think that it is going to change Flash. Microsoft can't win just copying technologies...

I love how this page only offers an Office 2007 Word document or an XPS document for download options:
http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details...;DisplayLang=en

Good going, MS... You have rendered a large portion of your users unable to view the documents there without extra addons like this: http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details...;displaylang=en

It seems to me that MS is trying to force its proprietary file formats to be used only.

Edit:
IE 6.0 and higher can apparently open XPS documents when the .NET Framework 3.0 (yes, 3.0) is installed. I tried it in IE7 and it took forever. IE7 has always been slow for me though (I even tried it on a Vista machine at a local Best Buy, and it was slow), so it might be different for different users. -_-
See here for details - http://www.microsoft.com/whdc/xps/viewxps.mspx

Edit2:
I just downloaded the XPS file with Firefox. It was 24.7 MB...

Edit3: The last link (details on IE7, .NET 3.0 and XPS) apparently only works in IE ! That's horrible!

gohankid77 said,
I love how this page only offers an Office 2007 Word document or an XPS document for download options:
http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details...;DisplayLang=en

Good going, MS... You have rendered a large portion of your users unable to view the documents there without extra addons like this: http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details...;displaylang=en

It seems to me that MS is trying to force its proprietary file formats to be used only.

Edit:
IE 6.0 and higher can apparently open XPS documents when the .NET Framework 3.0 (yes, 3.0) is installed. I tried it in IE7 and it took forever. IE7 has always been slow for me though (I even tried it on a Vista machine at a local Best Buy, and it was slow), so it might be different for different users. -_-
See here for details - http://www.microsoft.com/whdc/xps/viewxps.mspx

Edit2:
I just downloaded the XPS file with Firefox. It was 24.7 MB...

Edit3: The last link (details on IE7, .NET 3.0 and XPS) apparently only works in IE ! That's horrible!

Umm... The first link is for a pre-release Vista document anyway... The second link is an Office compatibility pack, maybe you should have linked to the Word/XPS viewer instead? And the last link you posted works perfectly fine on my Firefox... And what 24.7M document are you talking about? Meanwhile, Acrobat Reader 8 is an at least 80M download and it still blows goats just like it did at 1.0... It works, but so does a fax.

Hey Slacker, Well u don't have to install any external Codec.. its just the silverlight Runtime less than 2MB and thats it...
Hey guys never underestimate Microsoft... Examples Netscape,XBOX, r just few examples I can think of now.. same way Microsoft is the best in marketing..

Lets wait and seee coz I Love Microsoft.. Long Live Microsoft!!!!!

in order to make it a good alternative to pdf they need to create a viewer for win 2000 and a creation and viewer software for linux, OS X, vista and maybe some smaller but also important OS's...

Glassed Silver:mac

Glassed Silver said,
in order to make it a good alternative to pdf they need to create a viewer for win 2000 and a creation and viewer software for linux, OS X, vista and maybe some smaller but also important OS's...

Glassed Silver:mac


Maybe, or maybe not. Depending on what the XPS Reader was created with (e.g. .NET technology), you might be able to use Wine or Mono...

I see good things with Silverlight. If you guys watch the video from Channel9 on Silverlight, you'll see a lot of interesting things about it (even though the video mainly talks about the encoder application and not the plugin so much). But either way, it's pretty cool. Silverlight will shine where flash fails, and thats high quality streaming video (Silverlight uses VC1 encoded video).

Also, I think the big thing with Silverlight might not even be on the PC side, but on the Xbox 360. Since Microsoft signed that deal with Netflix (Netflix already has an On-Demand service for their movies I believe), we may start seeing On-Demand stuff from the Video Marketplace on the Xbox 360. But I guess we just have to wait and see, but I'd be tempted to start purchasing/renting movies from Marketplace if I could get high quality stuff without having to download it completely first (those movies are like 2-3GB each I believe, so I don't want to wait an hour to watch a movie when I want to see that movie right then lol).

Also, here's the link to the video on Channel9 for Silverlight:

http://channel9.msdn.com/Showpost.aspx?postid=301419

Is that video using Silverlight? if so then Microsoft needs to hurry up and switch Soapbox over from flash to Silverlight Looks good

IceBreakerG said,
Silverlight will shine where flash fails, and thats high quality streaming video (Silverlight uses VC1 encoded video).

It is trivial to add hi-def codec support to Flash. It's going to be a bit more difficult to make it cross-platform (hardware acceleration support), but then MS isn't even trying to make it cross-platform and Adobe could easily duplicate the functionality if it's Windows-only. MS will lose, again.

As for XPS, no one is going to use that because it has no advantages over open formats. Nor can it lock users in to it the way .doc did.

MS is using the strategy it had from the 1990s and this kind of stuff just doesn't fly in the 21st century.

toadeater said,

It is trivial to add hi-def codec support to Flash. It's going to be a bit more difficult to make it cross-platform (hardware acceleration support), but then MS isn't even trying to make it cross-platform and Adobe could easily duplicate the functionality if it's Windows-only. MS will lose, again.

As for XPS, no one is going to use that because it has no advantages over open formats. Nor can it lock users in to it the way .doc did.

MS is using the strategy it had from the 1990s and this kind of stuff just doesn't fly in the 21st century.

They are making it cross-browser and cross platform.

Link for the plug-in for Mac users
Silverlight Community Technology Preview for Mac (Feb 2007)

eAi said,
But not linux... It may be a small number of users, but its still a disincentive to companies considering switching... Adobe support flash and pdf on linux.

Flash on Linux? Don't make me laugh!
That buggy outdated thing that was released after Adobe bought them?

People will still use PDF because its just that... a PDF... It's like how graphic designers still use Mac's... just because they are a Mac... doesn't mean its better or worse... you get stuck in a pattern you stay in what works for you..

kivine said,
how about Zipping a file. I, like many others don't use winzip.

That is why I use gzipped tarballs. Any good archiving application on Windows should be able to read that format. As for Mac and most (if not all) Linux distributions, the tar utility and the gzip program are there already. I'm sure Mac users have a nice GUI interface that handles such archives for users that don't use the command line, just as there is Xarchiver for Xfce, Ark for KDE and File Roller for GNOME.

I don't see either XPS or Silverlight becoming popular anytime soon.

They are probably better, but they need to be so much better that people will want to switch, and that's a different matter. The more common PDF and Flash is (= insanely common), the better the competition need to be to make a dent to speak of. It's not enough with just being a bit better than the competition. In that case, WinZIP wouldn't be common anymore, given that there are both cheaper, as user-friendly, and more powerful alternatives.

For both XPS and Silverlight, it's not the people that have to like it. It's the companies. Once they switch, the users will have to get the appropriate viewing software.

Yes, you're right, but it'll take a lot for the companies to switch at this point.

PDF is a very capable format, has far better platform support than XPS, and supports modern features like cryptography, so it's not really "behind" in terms of important features and that's what I think will make switches less common. Paying for a license to create PDF's is a lesser problem for large companies. We aren't talking of an extreme cost anyway.

Jugalator said,
I don't see either XPS or Silverlight becoming popular anytime soon.

This is the same attitude Netscape users had about IE a dozen or so years ago. After MS "won" the browser wars, we were plummeted into the browser dark ages. Look how long it took for some serious competition to re-emerge to force MS to start innovating again? I'm all for Adobe getting some competition, I just hope that MS doesn't try to unfairly use their monopolistic position to chase Adobe out of the market like they did with Netscape.

This is the same attitude Netscape users had about IE a dozen or so years ago.

I didn't have this attitude once MS presented IE 4 with powerful DHTML support and DOM manipulation, taking web design to a whole new level beyond that of Netscape's Javascript. I just don't see a similar advantage now with XPS.

And as for Silverlight, one often touted advantage is HD streaming, but I can't see many websites wishing to carry that kind of content today. It might become a more common request in a more or less distant future though, but then Flash is of course likely to tag along as well.

I'm in my posts not saying no to competition though, and thinks it's good in general. So just don't confuse my negativity to this as a negativity to Microsoft and that I "want" there to be no competition and Adobe will always prevail. I'm just trying to look at the harsh reality here. I've heard of few people even talking of these technologies despite being in the news for months, so I can't say the initial buzz beyond Windows/geek enthusiast sites look promising.

Jugalator said,
I just don't see a similar advantage now with XPS.

I think the keyword in your sentence is now. Think of the current versions of these products as Internet Explorer 1.0. The browser was awful but it was released as part of the new Microsoft Windows 95 operating system in November 1995. This monopolistic move by MS give the little fledgling browser traction, but because MS had competition in those early years, they were still forced to innovate (that's why you finally got your IE4.0). After they "won" the browser war, they no longer had an incentive to innovate until recently. I just don't want to see the same thing happen in this segment of the market. Competition is good for the consumer :).

Oh yes, in the future, anything might happen here, that's extremely hard to speculate in. Microsoft might drop the effort like they've done in some cases in the past, or they might double their efforts if they aren't seeing much change. And I can agree with you that competition is good. Just saying that, no, right now I don't see much switches going to take place.

lbmouse said,

I think the keyword in your sentence is now. Think of the current versions of these products as Internet Explorer 1.0. The browser was awful but it was released as part of the new Microsoft Windows 95 operating system in November 1995. This monopolistic move by MS give the little fledgling browser traction, but because MS had competition in those early years, they were still forced to innovate (that's why you finally got your IE4.0). After they "won" the browser war, they no longer had an incentive to innovate until recently. I just don't want to see the same thing happen in this segment of the market. Competition is good for the consumer :).

Lets member that Xerox, one of the big vendors in the corporate world who have pledged to produce XPS native printers; so long Postscript, hello XPS.

Great thing for vendors? no royalty payments required to Adobe; its free for all to implement.