Adobe PDF becomes international standard

Adobe PDF 1.7 is to become an international standard, in a move that could lead to "confusion" for the print industry and affect printers bidding for corporate and government contracts.

An International Organisation for Standardisation ballot approved the file format as ISO 32000, in response to continued pressure from Microsoft's XPS format, open-source format ODF and corporate and government clamouring for standardisation.

Adobe, which opened up the full PDF 1.7 spec to enterprise content management association AIIM in January, has stolen a march on Microsoft, which released rival format XML Paper Specification (XPS) to a standards committee in July.

Adobe marketing manager John Bedford said the move marked "a positive step for the print industry" and would lead to "a broader adoption of PDF" and "accelerate innovation" while ensuring the format met "the unique needs of the print industry".

Martin Bailey, chief technology officer at Global Graphics, said: "It was a necessary step for Adobe to compete in that space of the corporate and government world. The effect on professional print will be because of the effects on the corporate and government sector, especially for those printers that work in that sector."

Bailey also said the move had "forced Adobe to clarify inconsistencies in the PDF spec", which was a good thing "in the mid- to long term". However, he said: "In the short term, it may create some confusion."

Ghent PDF Workgroup (GWG) chair David Zwang told that the "announcement could add confusion to the marketplace".

"If printers misunderstand that the 'standardisation' of PDF 1.7 benefits print media exchange, they are in for a surprise and not necessarily a good one."

He stressed that the ideal format for printers is PDF/X, which is formalised as ISO 15929 and 15930, used in conjunction with GWG best practices.

Dalim Software director of marketing Gee Ranasinha agreed: "Rather than focus on PDF 1.7, UK printers should familiarise themselves with the new, soon-to-be official version of PDF/X."

Bailey said that "because of all the lobbying over Open Document Format (ODF), Adobe was pushed into a corner" and added that Microsoft seeking to formalise XPS would have played a part.

Ranasinha agreed: "I would guess that Adobe pushed for PDF 1.7 to receive ISO certification as an attempt to debase Microsoft's efforts to push their own proprietary technologies, in the form of the XPS file format."

PDF 1.7 has passed all the hurdles and will officially become ISO 32000 around mid-2008.

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