Adobe Buys EchoSign--Makes Digital Signatures Mainstream

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Adobe announced that it has acquired EchoSign--a provider of electronic signature and signature automation tools. Adobe is almost a decade late getting into this game, but the strength and recognition of the Adobe brand may help drive more mainstream adoption of the technology.

I hate faxing. When a business wants to send me a fax, or asks me to fax something to them, I am compelled to remind them that this is 2011. I am happy to print, sign, scan, and email something--but I don't do faxing. What's even better, though, is to cut out the printing and scanning steps, and just sign documents electronically and send them on their way.

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Adobe Reader is virtually ubiquitous and could make digital signatures the default method of signing documents.
For many, the Adobe announcement signals a new era--a step forward in the quest for paperless workflow and contracts. But, the concept is not new. DocuSign has been providing electronic signing services since 2004, and EchoSign itself has been around for a number of years as well.

Regardless of the timing, Adobe has grand plans for EchoSign. "We see the majority of contracts being signed on the web in four to five years--up from one percent today," said Kevin Lynch, Vice President and General Manager of Acrobat Solutions, and Digital Enterprise Solutions for Adobe, adding, "Printing out paper, signing with a pen, and faxing or sending it in an overnight envelope will not be the way of the future and in the coming years will feel as antiquated as using film for photos."

EchoSign is an established player in the field with over 35,000 paid subscribers, and more than 3 million users. EchoSign customers include Groupon, Facebook, Dell, Pandora, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Aetna, BT, and many other globally recognized names.

Jason Lemkin, CEO of EchoSign elaborates, "We intend to accelerate EchoSign's growth through broader awareness and integration with Adobe's existing document technology, including the more than 500 million users of Adobe Reader." Lemkin also believes that there will be benefits to existing EchoSign customers with the integration of Adobe tools and resources.

For some, though, tying digital signatures to Adobe's proprietary tools may be an issue. The diverse product portfolio at Adobe may get in the way of maximizing the potential for digital document signing as well.

DocuSign is a leader in digital document signing--and the primary competitor for Adobe and EchoSign. DocuSign Founder and Chief Strategy Officer, Tom Gonser, says, "We feel that as a neutral best-of-class provider of electronic contracting we are more able to span the market than an electronic signature component tied only to one technology."

As established as EchoSign is, DocuSign essentially created the market in the first place. It has been doing electronic signatures since 2003, and--according to out of ten documents that are signed electronically today are managed through DocuSign. DocuSign claims that more than 8 million DocuSigners have signed more than 70 million documents in more than 50 countries--and new DocuSign users are being added at the brisk pace of 30,000 per weekday.

Gonser explains, "DocuSign provides full forms management, signer authentication, data collection, signature capture, workflow automation and document storage--all in the cloud. EchoSign has not developed a complete solution for large business, severely limiting their market opportunities to small simple business applications."

Hopefully with both Adobe and DocuSign driving things, we will see much wider adoption of electronic signatures. Adobe is a trusted brand that lends some street cred to the concept of digital document signing, and should help bring it into more mainstream use.

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