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.