There's a Kinko in the Printing Process

Last Updated Aug 7, 2007 11:50 AM EDT

From the headlines: Adobe includes a button in its latest software that would make it easy for users to print PDF files at FedEx Kinkos, then removes it following pressure from the printing industry.
The Adobe-FedEx Kinkos deal was a dream partnership... for FedEx Kinkos. Adobe did the right thing by backing down, for while they had much to gain, they had even more to lose.

images3.jpgAdobe has built a devout following by offering a solid product. In turn, printers have come to rely on, and by default promote, its software. Losing the good faith of those smaller printing companies -- who had lined up in confederacy against "the button" -- would open the door for rival software companies to come in and start eating away at the bottom end of Adobe's market share by catering to those companies who feel shunned by the deal. At the moment, Adobe is king. But as any king will tell you, the trouble always starts with a small and passionate resistance.

Ethically, and probably legally, Adobe could get away with its plan to make FedEx Kinkos the easiest route for putting pixels into print. This is not the Microsoft Internet Explorer case, where a company is using its one product to corner the market on another. Adobe and FedEx Kinkos are separate companies, and they formed into a partnership that they believed would benefit their customers. It may have shades of a monopoly, but no one would be forcing Adobe users to send their business to FedEx Kinkos. It's just that "the button" would have made it feel like too much of a bother to do otherwise.

By putting the breaks on this immediately -- or as soon as the next version of Adobe drops in a few weeks -- the design software giant will stave off the resistance. Or some of it. There will certainly be printing companies who will feel slighted enough to move away from Adobe. But by acting now, Adobe will put printers into a situation that is quite similar to "the button." Moving away from Adobe will require extra effort; sticking with them is just too easy.

Have a workplace-ethics dilemma? Ask it here or email wherestheline@gmail.com

  • William Baker

    William Baker is a freelance writer living in Cambridge, MA. His work has appeared in Popular Science, the Boston Globe Magazine, the New York Daily News, Boston Magazine, The Weekly Dig and a bunch of other places (including Field & Stream, though he doesn't hunt and can't really fish). He is a regular contributor to the Boston Globe, where he writes the weekly column, "Meeting the Minds." He holds a master's degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, and is at work on his first book.