Adobe's Acrobat.com Collaboration Services Emerge From Beta

Adobe Systems on Monday will move its Acrobat.com Web-based productivity and collaboration services out of beta and offer for-fee subscriptions to provide what the company hopes will be a new way for business users to collaborate on document creation.

The company also will introduce a spreadsheet service called Acrobat Tables, which goes into preview release on Monday, said Erik Larson, director of marketing and product management for Acrobat.com. Other services already available are a word processing application called Buzzword; a Web meeting application, Adobe Connect Now; and Presentations, an application akin to Microsoft's Office PowerPoint for building presentations.

Web-based services that compete with packaged software like Microsoft Office and IBM Lotus are becoming more prevalent; Google and others also have offerings in this market. Adobe, based on its history in the document-creation and management market, has a strong position to rival Office among business users, at whom Acrobat.com is aimed.

Adobe is offering two subscription levels for Acrobat.com -- Premium Basic and Premium Plus. Both are available as either a monthly or annual subscription, Larson said.

The basic level is US$14.99 a month or $149 a year and includes conversion to PDF for 10 documents a month, as well as the ability to hold Web meetings with up to five participants. The plus level costs $39 a month or $399 a year, and offers unlimited PDF conversions and Web meetings for up to 20 participants. Adobe offers telephone and Web support for both subscription levels, Larson said. A special introductory promotion that lasts until July 16 will give customers $15 off the annual plan and $50 off the plus plan, he added.

Adobe also will still offer a free basic version of Acrobat.com services in addition to the subscriptions.

Acrobat.com is not just aimed at giving business users an alternative to packaged software like Microsoft Office, but in the long run Adobe wants it to help people collaborate on documents in a new way, Larson said. The services in Acrobat.com allow multiple people to work on and edit documents simultaneously with continuous updating so the documents are always current, and give people a view into who's working on what parts of the document when and an ability to communicate with each other from within the application, he said.

The end result provides people with a more efficient and generally more enjoyable way to collaborate on document creation and generation, Larson said, allowing people to cut down on the number of meetings or e-mails creating a business document requires.

"It can be irritating to work with people in general, and technology makes it worse -- it can be too technological," he said. Adobe hopes Acrobat.com will provide simple, easy-to-use tools for collaboration so people will actually enjoy working together when using them, Larson said.

Daniel Alegria, a senior art director with interactive agency Genex in Culver City, California, said Adobe's direction with Acrobat.com, if achieved, would be useful for his company, which has used Acrobat.com to collaborate on internal documents.

"We want to view and manipulate information and have it shared across a team and have them share it as we're working toward the project's goal," he said.

Alegria said the idea of using an online application versus a client-side one for collaboration is attractive because "if your computer crashes, your documents don't go with it," he said.

However, Alegria said that it would be helpful if Adobe extended its services beyond managing and allowing people to collaborate on individual documents to providing management and collaboration capabilities for sets of documents for particular projects that span different applications.

"That would be very appealing to us," he said.

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