Acrobat hits devices--via Linux

You can already view Adobe Systems' Acrobat PDF files on Windows PCs, Macintosh systems, and Unix and Linux computers. You may soon be able to see them on your cell phone and your car's dashboard.

Adobe Systems has announced the Adobe Reader for Linux CE. This latest version of the Esperanto of digital formatting is intended for use with a variation of Linux designed for small consumer electronics. It is expected to first appear in a Sony GPS system available only in Japan.

Built-In Mobility

Among those pleased with the announcement is William Weinberg, Open Source Architecture Specialist for the Open Source Development Labs.

"I'm really glad to see Adobe extending into the small-device space," he says. Acrobat's not entirely new on Linux, he notes. "There's been a reader available for some time. But it's good to see this being available for embedded devices."

But don't head over to Adobe's Web site hoping to download the new reader. This is not an installable program like the Windows or Mac versions, but code that must be built into the device.

The traditional way of distributing the Reader software doesn't work with non-PC devices, according to Rick Bess, Adobe's director of product management. And non-PC devices have little standardization among products.

Because of that lack of standards, Adobe Reader for Linux CE is not a complete program, but a software development kit. Product manufacturers must "take it the last mile" in Bess's words, and add the final touches for a particular device.

Sony's Linux GPS

The first such device, Sony's HDD AV Navi XYZ, is not a typical auto-based geographic positioning system but "a multimedia computer that happens to be in your car," according to Adobe's Bess.

You'll be able to remove the device from your car, upload PDF files from a PC via a USB connection, and display them on the road. These documents could be anything, although obvious choices might include your car manual and information on the towns and tourist attractions you'll be driving through on your next road trip.

For now, however, those attractions are more likely to be in Kirishima National Park than Yellowstone. The HDD AV Navi XYZ will initially be available only in Japan. Bess wouldn't discuss plans to sell it elsewhere, but typically if a device does well in the Japanese market, the vendor will later market it overseas.

Other Linux CE devices may also include Adobe Reader soon, although Bess declines to release vendor names. Cell phones are the most obvious category, although it could also appear in set-top boxes, game machines, and personal video recording devices.

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