Fast Forward by Rob Pegoraro, Personal Tech Columnist
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Why Adobe and Microsoft Hit Delete on PDF Deal

A more reasonable theory holds that Adobe is worried that Microsoft's own PDF software will produce files that aren't strictly PDF-compatible, thus poisoning this standard. But that makes little sense on examination; the best way for Microsoft to quash Adobe's format is to keep Office PDF-illiterate.

Then there's the thought that Adobe's Acrobat, at $299, will compete poorly with any free save-as-PDF option. But Adobe had to have foreseen that possibility when it issued a blanket invitation to the world to write PDF-compatible software. As its own documentation reads, "Adobe gives anyone copyright permission, subject to the conditions stated below, to . . . Write drivers and applications that produce output represented in the Portable Document Format."

Further, for any company to start telling another how it should charge for its products is at best arrogance, at worst price collusion -- a violation of basic antitrust law.

All that and more about this story refuses to add up. It doesn't help that neither company has earned much right to wear a halo.

Adobe has its own monopolistic instincts: Last year it bought what was by far its biggest competitor in the graphics-software business, Macromedia. And it's been happy to exploit the demand for its free Adobe Reader to push unrelated software on users -- the Windows version normally comes with a Yahoo toolbar and Adobe's Photoshop album photo organizer.

Microsoft, meanwhile, has a history of taking standards developed by other companies, then writing software that somehow makes them work best, or only, on Microsoft operating systems. That conduct helped Microsoft lose many of its antitrust battles in the past decade; it's easy to see why the company wants to avoid a return to those days.

Still, from what we do know, it's hard not to wish that the bad old Microsoft would reemerge for this one occasion and tell Adobe to go pound sand.

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