Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 4th Oct 2005 13:16 UTC
Features, Office This week, Microsoft announced that, with the next version of Office, it will support saving files to Adobe's Portable Document Format, or PDF. While logical, the move raises questions about how the PDF support will coexist with Windows Vista's move to its own page description format, known as Metro. Sinofsky [Microsoft Senior Vice President] also addressed how Microsoft views the controversy surrounding Massachusetts' mandate for the OpenDocument standard.
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Clinton
Member since:
2005-07-05

Well, of course customers want it. They've wanted it for a long time. What I don't understand is a) why not announce it before all the news about Microsoft vs. MA (seeing as it's such a demanded feature)? and b) why not integrate it into Windows? As is, it looks like nothing more than a political move.

Also, if the customer really is that important, why not support OpenDocument, which would go a lot further in acheiving the level of document sharing capabilities that people want than PDF will? The only reason people want PDF is because they don't yet know that there is a better way.

Doesn't Microsoft think it would be a much bigger step towards satisfying customer's real needs by supporting an open format that is more robust than PDF?

Instead of trying to stick it to the competition all the time, why not listen to what your customers really want and then execute? It's pretty sad if your product doesn't have enough merit to stand up on its own without resorting to file format lock-in, don't you think?

Reply Parent Score: 2

Mystic TaCo Member since:
2005-09-13

DISCLAIMER: This post is my personal opinion. It doesn't in any way shape or form reflect any official Microsoft policy or viewpoints.

why not integrate it into Windows?

Integrating PDF support into Windows doesn't do anything for Office. Office "12" has to provide this functionality in WindowsXP, not just Vista.

Also, if the customer really is that important, why not support OpenDocument, which would go a lot further in acheiving the level of document sharing capabilities that people want than PDF will?

The scenario for PDF support in Access is not solved by the ODF AFAIK. Our PDF export story is primarily a mechanism by which users can produce fixed format documents that can be reprinted at any time with full print-fidelity. Most of these documents should never be modified after export, because they contain data that changes over time, and the intention of the report is to provide an overview/analysis of the data at a given point in time. These are electronic paper, for all intents and purposes. People design Access reports to the pixel. If they are reflowed or re-laid out post-export, then many would be completely broken (ex: report reproductions of government forms which automatically fill in data from some back-end database).

The other thing that PDF has that ODF doesn't is a tremendous installed base for the reader application. This means users can just mail these documents around an make the assumption that all recipients will be able to open them witout installing any additional software. This is absolutely critical to most corporate environments, for which users typically don't have the ability to install additional software on their machines.

Instead of trying to stick it to the competition all the time, why not listen to what your customers really want and then execute? It's pretty sad if your product doesn't have enough merit to stand up on its own without resorting to file format lock-in, don't you think?

We actually do a very thorogh job of trying to learn what scenarios our customers want to have. We don't just listen to active online users, and technologists, but focus on learning what everyone wants. The vast majority of feedback we've had so far on Office "12" from our customers (basically every large corporation and government agency in the world) has been very positive. There are always a few outliers, but they are the the exception and not the rule.

Okay, now I'm going to get religious for a moment... take this with a grain of salt:

Access is by far the most popular database program in the world. 70 million unique users boot it at least once each month, 40 million each week. It has no problem standing on its own with or without the file format. As a matter of fact, the Access 'file format' has been Jet for many years. Jet ships in Windows, and could have been used by any software vendor to build a better and more compelling application. It isn't that the opportunity isn't there, it is just that no one has built a competitor that rivals the feature set of Access.

Reply Parent Score: 1

Mystic TaCo Member since:
2005-09-13

DISCLAIMER: This post is my personal opinion. It doesn't in any way shape or form reflect any official Microsoft policy or viewpoints.

why not integrate it into Windows?

Integrating PDF support into Windows doesn't do anything for Office. Office "12" has to provide this functionality in WindowsXP, not just Vista.

Also, if the customer really is that important, why not support OpenDocument, which would go a lot further in acheiving the level of document sharing capabilities that people want than PDF will?

The scenario for PDF support in Access is not solved by the ODF AFAIK. Our PDF export story is primarily a mechanism by which users can produce fixed format documents that can be reprinted at any time with full print-fidelity. Most of these documents should never be modified after export, because they contain data that changes over time, and the intention of the report is to provide an overview/analysis of the data at a given point in time. These are electronic paper, for all intents and purposes. People design Access reports to the pixel. If they are reflowed or re-laid out post-export, then many would be completely broken (ex: report reproductions of government forms which automatically fill in data from some back-end database).

The other thing that PDF has that ODF doesn't is a tremendous installed base for the reader application. This means users can just mail these documents around an make the assumption that all recipients will be able to open them witout installing any additional software. This is absolutely critical to most corporate environments, for which users typically don't have the ability to install additional software on their machines.

Instead of trying to stick it to the competition all the time, why not listen to what your customers really want and then execute? It's pretty sad if your product doesn't have enough merit to stand up on its own without resorting to file format lock-in, don't you think?

We actually do a very thorogh job of trying to learn what scenarios our customers want to have. We don't just listen to active online users, and technologists, but focus on learning what everyone wants. The vast majority of feedback we've had so far on Office "12" from our customers (basically every large corporation and government agency in the world) has been very positive. There are always a few outliers, but they are the the exception and not the rule.

Okay, now I'm going to get religious for a moment... take this with a grain of salt:

Access is by far the most popular database program in the world. 70 million unique users boot it at least once each month, 40 million each week. It has no problem standing on its own with or without the file format. As a matter of fact, the Access 'file format' has been Jet for many years. Jet ships in Windows, and could have been used by any software vendor to build a better and more compelling application. It isn't that the opportunity isn't there, it is just that no one has built a competitor that rivals the feature set of Access.

Reply Parent Score: 1

Mystic TaCo Member since:
2005-09-13

DISCLAIMER: This post is my personal opinion. It doesn't in any way shape or form reflect any official Microsoft policy or viewpoints.

why not integrate it into Windows?

Integrating PDF support into versioin of Windows that is currently under development instead of Office would limit Office "12" customers from getting this scenario unless they move to Vista. While it is true that there is a portion of our customer base who will upgrade both at the same time, there is also a large group of customers who will want to install Office "12" on their existing WindowsXP deployments.

Also, if the customer really is that important, why not support OpenDocument, which would go a lot further in acheiving the level of document sharing capabilities that people want than PDF will?

The scenario for PDF support in Access is not solved by the ODF AFAIK. Our PDF export story is primarily a mechanism by which users can produce 'fixed format' documents that are essentially print-time representations of the Form, Report, Table, Query, etc... These can then be reprinted at any time with full original print quality. Most of these documents should never be modified after export, because they contain data that changes over time, and the intention of the report is to provide an overview/analysis of the data at a given point in time. These are electronic paper, for all intents and purposes. Also, people design Access reports to the pixel. If they are reflowed or re-laid out post-export, then many would be completely broken (ex: report reproductions of government forms which automatically fill in data from some back-end database).

The other thing that PDF has that ODF doesn't is a tremendous installed base for reader client applications. This means users can just mail these documents around an make the assumption that all recipients will be able to open them witout installing any additional software. This is absolutely critical to most corporate environments, for which users typically don't have the ability to install additional software on their machines.

Instead of trying to stick it to the competition all the time, why not listen to what your customers really want and then execute? It's pretty sad if your product doesn't have enough merit to stand up on its own without resorting to file format lock-in, don't you think?

So as I mentioned before, the reason we're doing this work is because customers have asked us to, a lot of customers. In fact, they've been asking for it for a very long time. The reasons we've chosen not to implement this support in the past are largely to do with legal necessity. Because Microsoft is a legal monopoly, many decicisions which would simply be technology issues at other companies are instead subject to legal review. A good example of this is the recent Media Player suit in the EU.

Also, I don't think I can agree with your assertion that we don't execute on customer scenarios. The overwhelming majority of customer feedback we've recieved on this version of Office has been extremely positive. I personally have spent a lot of time talking to all sorts of MS customers, and I have never once been asked by one for ODF support. I'm not suggesting no customers want this, just that it is rare enough that in the hundreds of developer and corporate customers I've talked to, it has never come up. If we were getting a lot of feature requests for support of this format, I genuinely believe MS would try and find a way to support it legally.

[One interesting point about Office "12" file formats is that the reason they have been changed is so that we could add a swath of new features customers directly requested. If we were stuck to ODF, would we still be able to respond this way? I don't know, but it is an interesting question to consider.]

Reply Parent Score: 1