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With PDF Now an ISO Standard, What About Microsoft's XPS?

Answered by Jay Nelson, Editor and Publisher, Design Tools Monthly

I heard that Adobe's PDF 1.7 format has been accepted as an ISO standard. What does this mean for Microsoft's fledgling, competing XPS format?

You're right: Adobe's PDF 1.7 format has been accepted by the International Standards Organization (ISO) as a new electronic document standard. PDF 1.7 is now also known as ISO 32000 Standard (DIS) and will be openly available to companies and organizations that want to include PDF technology in their products. And while it so far isn't clear how the ISO's approval of PDF will affect Microsoft's ability to achieve acceptance of its competing XPS format, it's probably bad news for Microsoft.

Microsoft's XPS, or XML Paper Specification, is similar to PDF in that it displays documents as formatted, but unlike PDF, it is not yet cross-platform. Instead, Microsoft has built XPS into Windows Vista, similar to how PDF is built into Mac OS X. In an attempt to speed adoption, Microsoft is licensing XPS royalty-free to developers. But again, without the cross-platform acceptance that PDF enjoys, it'll be an uphill battle for XPS. It also doesn't help that the U.S. government settled on the PDF format for distribution of its documents…

I think it's a shame that it took something as momentous as Microsoft delivering a freely-licensed competing technology before Adobe would lighten its PDF licensing restrictions and fees. But this isn't the first time that it took some arm-twisting to get Adobe to let go of a cash-cow monopoly: it wasn't until the moment that Microsoft and Apple announced their freely-licensed TrueType font format that Adobe decided to remove their prohibitively expensive licensing fees charged to competitors who wanted to distribute fonts in Adobe's PostScript format.

This question was answered by Jay Nelson, Publisher & Editor, Design Tools Monthly. We love DTM's tips and advice and think you will, too. For a free sample PRINTED issue, contact Design Tools Monthly at 303-543-8400, e-mail, or go to their website:

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