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Adobe chief: Graphics grow up

John Warnock says graphics on the Web are currently in their infancy but the scene is likely to change with several new Adobe technologies.

NEW YORK--Adobe chief and cofounder John Warnock today said that graphics on the Web are currently in their infancy but the scene is likely to change as soon as the graphics and publishing software giant introduces technologies that close the gap between expressive print publications and graphics on the Internet.

Although Warnock did not make any product announcements during his keynote address at Fall Internet World today, he demonstrated two Adobe technologies that are in the works.

Analysts agree that introducing new technologies to counter the sales of upgrades is vital for Adobe's growth because its current staple of upgrade is generating much lower revenues, stalling the company in recent quarters. The company last month announced that it planned to lay off 10 percent of its 3,000 employees, and has moved to dump some of its top managers.

The company also warned Wall Street in September that it would not meet earnings expectations, and took a $25 million hit in third-quarter revenues because of declining sales in Japan.

Warnock said that he is looking to position Adobe so that the company is inextricably linked to the Internet, drawing upon the numerous opportunities provided by the Web to reshape how corporations design, store, and use documents. He also hopes to make Adobe the graphics tool of choice as companies race to place graphical advertisements and establish brand-identity on the Web.

Warnock demonstrated a technology informally dubbed "Spider" by Adobe programmers that gathers information from Web sites that is directed toward and pulls down the site, converting it to a portable document format (PDF) file. This file can be burned onto a CD or viewed offline.

The graphics from the site become scalable, and even text embedded in the image can be searched with key words, Warnock said.

"If an image does not fit onto a page, it will scale the image to fit on the page, and all the links remain live," Warnock said.

He added that this technology helps overcome the pervasive problem of printing documents from the Web which usually results in strange page breaks, images being split, and disappearing text.

To demonstrate this technology, he showed the half-filled auditorium a previously downloaded and converted NASA Mars' site. Warnock zoomed in on segments, something still not possible on the Web, of the red planet to reveal crisp, sharp details.

But he admitted that downloading the site took about three hours from his office Internet connections and a home 56k connection download would be nearly unbearable.

"The whole point of the demonstration is to show that there are other ways to navigate the Web," said Warnock. "There are ways that will give you much richer experiences."

He added that this conversion technology will be especially useful to people who like to keep archival copies that show the evolution of the information on their Web sites.

The other technology he said the company was demonstrating publicly for the first time is Precision Graphics Markup Language.

PGML was created in conjunction with IBM, Netscape Communications, and Sun Microsystems, and will revolutionize the way Web page-based images, graphics, and animation, are viewed, said Warnock.

Adobe submitted PGML to the Wide Web Consortium in April and hopes to see the technology as a standard sometime around May next year. PGML could allow improved quality of Web-based graphics with out the necessity of specialized plug-ins or viewers.

The demonstrations showed how PGML can drive HTML links and vice-versa. Warnock's assistant zoomed in on a map of San Francisco, and the graphics and typography remained sharp. The assistant called up the locations of coffee houses in the downtown area that appeared as coffee cups. When he clicked on a cup, the name and address of the caf? appeared in HTML format. Clicking on the cup, brought up the caf?'s menu.

"Adobe's long-term goal is to have all its powerful authoring applications just transformed directly to the Web so that they are just as, if not more, expressive than currently available in print publications," said Warnock.

"[Adobe] is committed to make sure that we don't have the restrictive graphics that we are saddled with currently on the Web," said Warnock. "We are seriously committed to creating applications that will allow the representation of graphical information in the most effective form on the Web."