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Adobe tries mollifying peeved partners

A deal to promote FedEx Kinko's online printing in Adobe Reader and Acrobat software has outraged print shops--and Adobe is trying to find a fix.

Adobe Systems is trying to find a way out of a thorny fix--a deal with FedEx Kinko's that outraged other printing companies--and part of the strategy is a public mea culpa by a senior executive.

Bruce Chizen, Adobe's chief executive, and John Loiacono, head of the company's creative products division, met Tuesday with a group of print industry leaders, Loiacono said on his blog after the meeting. "They were tough on us. Big-time tough," he said Wednesday. "At the end of the discussion, we committed to coming back to them within two weeks with a decision on how we will move forward. We are going to do everything possible to find a way to deliver a win-win situation on all sides."

The ruckus began in June when the design software powerhouse announced the deal, which prominently perched a "Send to FedEx Kinko's" print-on-demand button in version 8.1 of the Adobe Reader and Acrobat Professional packages for handling PDF files. With it, software users could send print jobs to FedEx Kinko's print centers.

The move didn't sit well with other printing establishments, though, many of which rely on Adobe fonts, software and file formats for their businesses and didn't welcome the San Jose, Calif.-based company promoting one of their competitors.

For example, Joseph Truncale, chief executive of the National Association of Printing Leadership, and Steve Johnson, CEO of the National Association of Quick Printers, stated their objections in a letter to Chizen.

"We fully understand Adobe's wish to make document production as efficient as possible...However, by aligning with only one provider as a means of offering these efficiencies, Adobe has, in our view, provided an unfair competitive advantage to FedEx Kinko's," they said in the letter.

Adobe's actions hurt partners who directly helped Adobe accomplish its business ends, they added. "The advantage gained by FedEx Kinko's through this agreement with Adobe comes at the expense of the many other printers--including many of our members--who have played such a pivotal role in establishing Adobe as the de facto standard among many end users for reading documents and printing file submission," the letter said.

Loiacono said Adobe learned from its missteps--first in using a "flawed" process to evaluate the FedEx Kinko's deal, then in the company's response to the resulting wrath.

Loiacono's didn't suggest it will be easy to find a "win-win" solution--I'm guessing that a new contract with Kinko's is just one of the challenges. Meanwhile, at least some affected parties remain incensed.

"Count Kahne Printing as another business Adobe has lost until the Kinko's link is removed," said Miahcel Kahny, an employee at the company. "Don't muddy the waters with talk of added features or future partnerships. You have a simple singular 'next step': remove the link."