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Adobe adds customer functionality, receives criticism from partners

Adobe tried to expand its customers' choices, and ended up getting toasted by its partners. What's a company to do?

Adobe teams up with FedEx Kinko's

You've got to feel for Adobe Systems. It added what it thought was a feature to some of its products and instead discovered it added a land mine. As reported in today's Wall Street Journal, Adobe added a new button to some of its software that lets customers transfer their documents to a FedEx Kinko's for printing. Sounds good, right?

Apparently not if you're a competing printer. A wide range of these printers, which get more and more of their business from orders over the Web, rather than from walk-in sales, have complained, and Adobe is considering how to respond.

The problem with the complaints is that they come from those who have no business--pun intended--complaining. They don't have the kind of reach that offers consumers a local presence to collect their prints/copies, and it would be inanely cumbersome for Adobe to add a similar print feature for every Mom-and-Pop print shop on the planet.

Are these FedEx Kinko's competitors arguing that the print experience should remain Stone Age? The feature makes a lot of sense--I'd use it regularly, just as I use services like Shutterfly and iPhoto (on the Mac) to send photo print orders over the Web. Yes, I suppose this cuts out the local Costco photo service, but I really don't care as a consumer. I want something that is easy to use at a reasonable price.

In other words, I see Adobe's move as about expanding choice, not limiting choice.

Perhaps Adobe could placate these whiners by providing an open API that would allow them to write their own service. The onus would still be on them to drum up customers who would then one-click install the service into the Adobe software, but surely they could start with past customers as a way to try to facilitate repeat business?

Of course, if the code were open source, then the solution would be much easier to come by. But that's a post for another day.