Curated for content, computing, and digital experience professionals

Day: March 24, 2007

Is Adobe Really Going to Mars?

I’m becoming concerned whether Adobe is really serious about Mars. My evidence:

1. The FAQ has not be updated since 27 Oct 2006.

2. At the end of the FAQ it reads:

Q: When will the Mars format be frozen for 1.0?
A: A date for this has not yet been set.
Q: When will the Mars plug-in be available?
A: It is planned to be available before the end of the year.

This all seems very tentative.

As Joe Wilcox observes here:
“Adobe’s competitive response to XPS makes sense. PDF’s heritage predates the populist Web, and Adobe created the format for the purpose of mimicking paper documents. In the 21st century, however, digital documents are often containers that likely will never be printed. Paper’s relevance — and so the need to mimic — has greatly diminished.”
All of this is, on the surface, true (except perhaps the “makes sense” part). Does tossing high-fidelity page-oriented PDF into an XML container really address this issue?

I think even more significant is Adobe’s clearly stated, and obviously honestly intended, design to make PDF an ISO standard. My cynical blog entry is here: . But, as Adobe and others point out, subsets of PDF, very useful subsets I’d say, are already ISO standards, including “Several trade-specific subsets of the PDF spec are either ISO approved or in the approval process, including PDF/X for printers, PDF/E for engineers, PDF/A for archivists and PDF/UA for making documents compliant with Section 508 regulations.” (,1895,2088277,00.asp).

These aspects of PDF, including, of course, the entire spec, only serve to “encrypt” as standards that which makes PDF uniquely the “Portable Document Format.” PDF as an XPS competitor is not uniquely PDF, in the historic sense of the format, and with the entire PDF spec submitted to ISO, Mars needs to succeed within this process. Do we really think it can?

I think that Adobe is far more interested in Apollo ( Although this is a very different beast than Mars, I believe Adobe knows that its future lies much moreso with this kind of technology than it does on the not-very-hospitable planet Mars.

New Research on Enterprise Social Software Use

Finally there is some quantitative research on enterprise use of blogs, wikis, tagging, etc. to complement the very informal surveys we have taken, and the work done at the University of Massachusetts. Reports from Forrester (CIOs Want Suites For Web 2.0) and McKinsey (How businesses are using Web 2.0: A McKinsey Global Survey) published this week provide interesting, though not surprising, data. The McKinsey report is free with registration, and the Forrester report isn’t expensive.

I haven’t read the Forrester report (119 CIOs), but the executive summary focuses on their finding that most CIOs want to buy enterprise social software in suite form from large vendors rather from the smaller specialist software vendors. This fact itself is of course totally predictable, but it raises two interesting issues. First, just what are all the larger vendors, as well as midsize (e.g., content management vendors) doing about all this? (Short answer – all are doing something, but the details are often vague.) Second, what will be lost or gained in the process of force-fitting the “engage and collaborate” functions and culture into the “command and control” (last week’s post) of top-down IT directives?

The McKinsey report (2847 executives, 44% C-level) found “widespread but careful interest” in “Web 2.0 technologies”, and that they are strategic and will be invested in. I think their conclusion might be a little overly conservative given their findings. For example, 77% of retail and 74% of high tech plan to increase investment in these technologies. Note, however that McKinsey includes web services as a “Web 2.0” technology which not everyone would agree with.

See comments on these reports from Nick Carr, who points out where the Forrester and McKinsey findings differ. And see Richard MacManus’ comments on what the Forrester findings mean for the startups in this space.
For a couple of vendor perspectives, Socialtexts’ Ross Mayfield covers these findings here, and FAST’s Hadley Reynolds talks about some similar research they have been working on with the Economist here.
Also (while not commenting on these reports) Andrew McAfee provides some info on how he is seeing enterprises using these technologies.

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