Adobe Launches Hosted Services, Adds Flash to Acrobat

Adobe on Monday is set to unveil the next version of its Adobe Acrobat software, which adds support for the company's Flash multimedia technology. The company also plans to launch a new Web site offering users free hosted services for document creation, sharing and storage.

The move positions Adobe competitively against Microsoft, Google and other companies offering similar services online and signals Adobe's first major move into the hosted-services arena for business documents.

Combined, the two announcements support Adobe's broader strategy to offer rich-media capabilities through Flash and other technologies for both online and offline documents.

Adobe's new Web site, called Acrobat.com, offers beta versions of several hosted document services. They include Adobe Buzzword, a word-processing service that the company acquired from Virtual Ubiquity in September.

Adobe also is offering Adobe ConnectNow, a service that offers free Web conferencing for up to three people, and an online repository for documents. The company also provides guidance for converting documents to PDFs and will let users convert up to five documents into PDF for free on the site.

Adobe says Acrobat.com is a place where users can work with documents in the cloud, a definition that is similar to how Microsoft and Google are positioning online services they offer for free.

Even as Adobe rolls out hosted document services, Adobe Acrobat 9, the company's packaged software for document sharing, is expected to ship in late June or early July, said Kevin M. Lynch, vice president of product management and marketing for Acrobat. The software will allow users to incorporate Flash content in documents that can be converted to PDF, so any dynamic media created in Flash and included in the document will become portable, he said.

Acrobat 9 will come in its three typical versions, Standard, Pro and Pro Extended, for US$299, $449 and $699, respectively. Current users can upgrade for a discount; more information is available on Adobe's Web site.

Toby Bell, research vice president with Gartner, said that Adobe could trump Google in its ambition to compete with Microsoft to offer online services in the enterprise space because of its strength in business document-management and mindshare with creative professionals.

"PDF originally was sort of the offline model for the Internet-based portability of information, but usually ... you're offline when you do it," he said. "Now the online [services] coupling is probably a strong enough and solid enough business proposition that it will generate revenue for Adobe, something that is missing in a lot of Web 2.0 strategies."

So far Microsoft has not offered a hosted version of its Office productivity suite, but it did recently launch its own elaborate file-sharing service called Windows Live Mesh. The company also offers online file-storage services through Windows Live SkyDrive. Google has its own document-creation and -storage service called Google Docs. Neither company offers hosted Web conferencing at this time.

While its competitors use online advertising as a business model for their online services, Adobe has no current plans to go this route, the company said. Rather, it eventually will offer premium, subscription-based versions of the services for a fee.

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