Adobe, FedEx Kinko’s Pact Creates Firestorm —Michelson
ONE MIGHT well have thought the dangerous wildfires that ravaged parts of California and other Western states this summer also engulfed Adobe Systems’ headquarters in San Jose. They did not. But Adobe CEO Bruce Chizen should have donned his fire protection gear anyway, especially after landing in the hot seat following his software company’s June 6 pact with FedEx Kinko’s. The two companies collaborated to incorporate a “send to FedEx Kinko’s” button within Adobe Reader 8.1 and Adobe Acrobat 8.1 software—making it appear to many in the industry that Adobe is endorsing one print provider. The move has incensed independent and franchise commercial and quick printers, in-plants, as well as the associations that serve them.
In fact, the uproar has been deafening. This “business move insults industry loyalty” and “we felt terribly betrayed,” wrote the PIA/GATF, pointing to the negative feedback it received from its 12,000 member companies. The agreement “comes at the expense of many other printers...who have played such a pivotal role in establishing Adobe as the defacto standard among end users for reading documents and printing file submission,” chimed the NAPL and NAQP in a similar letter to Chizen. Even 81 percent of print buyers responding to a Print Buyers Online.com (PBO) quick poll were opposed. As PBO’s Suzanne Morgan points out in her blog on www.piworld.com, “I’m surprised that one or both companies didn’t do test marketing or focus groups to understand the possible impact on their customers and brands...They need to step up to the plate and engage their customers at this critical time.”
In response, Adobe went into damage control mode by doing just that. On July 17, Chizen met with more than two dozen industry executives in person and by phone. To his credit, he was frank in admitting his company’s misstep, but Chizen would not reveal the terms of the FedEx Kinko’s contract nor would he commit to immediately severing the agreement between the two companies.
“You are (also) in a contract with us,” responded one association executive. “Contracts can be broken. That’s something your attorneys may not understand, but your marketing people sure do.” The advisory group also balked when Chizen floated the idea of Adobe giving other printers branded plug-ins to distribute to their clients. In addition, Adobe execs noted there are technical instructions on how to remove the button on the company’s Website.
The bottom line: Adobe made a mistake by including the “send to FedEx Kinko’s” button in 8.1 versions of Adobe Acrobat and Reader. Hopefully, management now realizes it should have been developed as a branded plug-in for FedEx Kinko’s to distribute to its own customer base, rather than as a standard software feature distributed by Adobe to all users of Adobe Acrobat and Reader 8.1.
Adobe promised to issue a formal response to this controversial matter by August 1, too late for the outcome to be reported here. Either way, if the software developer doesn’t douse the flames by either breaking its contract with FedEx Kinko’s—even if it means suffering whatever financial penalties may be written into the contract for an early termination—or by making non-branded, 8.2 versions of the two software programs available, an industry firestorm of opposition will surely burn out of control.
Mark T. Michelson