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Sun 12 Jun 2005 04:00 AM

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Microsoft takes on imaging might of Adobe

Microsoft is taking the fight to Adobe in a product sector traditionally dominated by the latter, namely that of digital imaging.

Microsoft is taking the fight to Adobe in a product sector traditionally dominated by the latter, namely that of digital imaging.

Not only do Mr Gates and his team have their sights firmly set on the market share held by Adobe’ s hugely popular Photoshop and Illustrator programs, but Microsoft is also working on an alternative to Adobe’s industry standard PDF file format.

This week Microsoft has made the first step towards grabbing some of Adobe’s imaging business by releasing a Beta (trial) version of its forthcoming ‘Acrylic’ application.

This program is based on Expression, the graphics application Microsoft acquired with its 2003 purchase of Hong Kong company Creature House, and is available immediately from www.microsoft.com/products/expression as a free 77MB download. The program offers both pixel-based painting and vector graphics features, pitting it squarely against Adobe’s pixel-focused imaging master, Photoshop, and the firm’s range of vector-driven Illustrator apps.

Although it seems from first looks that Acrylic supports the opening and exporting of images to Photoshop and Illustrator file formats, as well as Adobe's Portable Document Format (PDF), Microsoft says Acrylic will not currently save pixel-type data to formats other than its native ‘XPR’ file type. Also, Acryclic - unlike its Expression predecessor - cannot be used with the Apple Computer platform.

The beta version of Acrylic will only work until October 1, after which it will expire. Users wishing to try it will also need fairly substantial systems, as Microsoft is recommending relatively high PC specs, such as a Pentium 4 machine with Windows XP Service Pack 2, 512MB of memory and 500MB of disk space.

Meanwhile, Microsoft’s forthcoming PDF competitor will be called ‘Metro’. This technology, which uses the WinFX model and be royalty-free for hardware and software vendors, is designed to allow Windows users to view, print, share and archive documents without Windows or the application that created them. In other words, the same functions that Adobe's Portable Document Format (PDF) has been offering for years.

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