Adobe Moves Out Of 3D

In a press release issued today Adobe announced the release of Acrobat X, Reader X, Acrobat Suite X and new Acrobat.com document exchange services. The X stands for version 10. The company has made a major change to the Acrobat family of products. Earlier there were three levels of Acrobat – Standard, Pro and Pro Extended. The Pro Extended was the only level that could create 3D PDF’s. Adobe has axed that level completely.

This press release from Tech Soft 3D sheds more light. If you remember a while ago, Adobe decided to take a second look at their foray into the 3D and decided to partner with Tech Soft 3D to take that side of the business forward (see “Adobe Outsources 3D To Tech Soft 3D“). In turn Tech Soft 3D has now partnered with a new company called Tetra 4D which will be the “exclusive provider of Tech Soft 3D’s powerful 3D CAD converters running within Adobe Acrobat X Pro“. What makes it more interesting is that Tetra 4D is headed by Greg Baker, a former Adobe employee and someone who I closely worked with to create our Acrobat plug-ins. Ron Fritz, the co-founder and CEO of Tech Soft 3D happens to be on the advisory board of Tetra 4D.

Ron and I spoke in some detail about this when I met him at Spatial’s 3D Insider’s Summit in Westminster, Colarado, last month. Although much of what we discussed was for my ears only, I will point out the part of the press release that I found most interesting – “Tech Soft 3D’s powerful 3D CAD converters. Make of it what you will. So if I understand this correctly, first Adobe signs an agreement with Tech Soft 3D to “develop and distribute” it’s data translation technology. And now Tech Soft 3D calls the technology its own and Adobe removes the technology from Acrobat completely.

In March 2007 I posted an article on this blog titled “Wireframe, Measurement and Collaboration” which gives a good idea of Adobe’s understanding of 3D and CAD in general. When Adobe added 3D to PDF the idea was to get into Manufacturing and make 3D PDF the standard format of data exchange and storage. They hoped that CAD users would buy Adobe Acrobat Pro Extended and use it to import a bunch of proprietary CAD file formats and publish 3D PDF’s from them. They also hoped that the CAD vendors would see the value in 3D PDF and license their 3D PDF SDK to make their CAD systems read and write 3D PDF files. What Adobe didn’t realize is that data exchange is a problem that CAD vendors don’t want to solve because it is in their best interest that the problem stays alive and festers. I know that because for more than a decade I have succeeded in making a decent living from offering solutions that attempt to solve that very problem.

Frankly, I am not surprised that Adobe is moving out of the CAD business and is concentrating on what it knows to do best. In fact, I think it is high time they left CAD to people who don’t think of a 3D model as just another document.