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Adobe's Mission: One Application for Print and Interactivity

Looking far ahead into a future where digital information would flow over telephone lines and wireless airwaves, Adobe wanted to evolve from being the leader in the print industry to being a leader in the interactive multimedia market. Instead of purchasing a contender to Director from a third-party company as Macromedia did, Adobe decided to continually enhance the interactive capabilities of PDF via Acrobat using the JavaScript language so it would have both print and multimedia in one application, which Adobe thought was a more logical solution. The Acrobat workflow would entail creating the document in a page layout program such as Adobe PageMaker or QuarkXPress and then having Acrobat convert (distill) it to PDF. Then, once the PDF document was opened in Acrobat, interactive functions and video could be added to the document and saved for playback via Reader. The only drawback to early editions of this presentation system was that a user needed the full version of Acrobat to view the video. Viewing rich media in a PDF would require a considerable cost from the user. Adobe thought this would be a good place to find revenue.

For Adobe it was a real gamble to assume that multimedia developers would go to these lengths to make an interactive publication when Director had such a strong user base. Macromedia Director created a "projector" that was a play-only version of the Director authoring application; it contained everything needed to view the presentation. But Adobe had to rely on the public to buy a copy of Acrobat to view the rich-media video.

Knowing that the general public would never pay for a copy of Acrobat, the multimedia industry declared interactive PDF a lost cause and thought it was much better suited to the print industry. Adobe took that cue and put its energy into refining the print portions of the PDF specification; as a result, PDF is the de facto standard for the print publishing industry today. Still, Adobe didn't give up on the interactive rich-media PDF; the company just went underground and regrouped its multimedia troops.

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