Friday, April 15, 2005 | Face value: The alchemist of paper | Face value: The alchemist of paper: "Bruce Chizen, the boss of Adobe Systems, wants to end bureaucracy as we know it
IT'S exciting; we get to change society once again, says Bruce Chizen, boss of Adobe Systems, the firm behind the popular PDF (or portable-document-format) files that are widely downloaded and e-mailed around nowadays. This is not, he adds, about making offices paperless, as some people ludicrously, in retrospect were predicting a decade ago. Instead, it is about bridging the separation between paper and electronic files in order to make all documents, in whatever form, intelligent, thereby blasting apart the way that paper-pushers in government and corporate bureaucracies work today.
Microsoft, Mr Chizen says, is scary because “PDF caught them by surprise”. As the business enters a new phase, Microsoft may see an opportune moment to trample into it. Mr Chizen, who in 1987 made the financially costly choice to leave a senior position at Microsoft to join a subsidiary of Apple, just as Microsoft began to clobber Apple (and others), knows what that usually leads to. Software platforms, he says, are crucial because of their network effects. Microsoft succeeded by making Windows a platform; Adobe can succeed by turning Reader into a platform, and building Acrobat and other applications on top. And workflows matter because that is where bureaucracies today get stuck, and where intelligent documents will make a difference. “This can easily become a $5 billion-a-year company,” says Mr Chizen. (Adobe is now barely a $2 billion-a-year company.) Failing that, it can at least, once again, change society."

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