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With the launch of a new site called Acrobat.com, Adobe says it’s ready to compete against online office products like Google Docs and Microsoft Office Live. For now, the site brings together three of Adobe’s office services — Buzzword for creating and sharing documents, ConnectNow for web conferencing and an “organizer” with 5 gigabytes for file sharing.
Despite the presence of other big players, Adobe could make some real headway in this field. After all, the best-known competitor, Google Docs, is favored primarily because it’s available for free, rather than for its limited functionality. Acrobat.com is free too, and in his announcement, Acrobat.com Product Manager Erik Larson says Adobe’s goal is to give users collaborative features without settling for a lower-quality product.
For example, Larson points to Buzzword’s feature for commenting on documents. Buzzword has a little balloon that’s always present and allows you to make comments along the side of a document. In other office apps, users have to turn commenting on and off. (Digital Media Editor Eric Eldon, who has used Buzzword, tells me Buzzword’s commenting feature is much better than the competition, and that’s just one advantage it has over Google Docs.) That may sound like a rather minor feature to emphasize, but it underlines Larson’s bigger argument that Adobe’s products were built with online collaboration in mind. Microsoft Office Live, on the other hand, is a desktop application with sharing features added, and in many ways Google Docs feels like a pared-down version of Microsoft Office.
With its three bundled products, Acrobat.com is broader than Google Docs; the web conferencing feature ConnectNow can be seen as a competitor to WebEx and GoToMeeting. Also very cool is the fact that Acrobat.com runs on Adobe’s popular Flash runtime and its hybrid web-desktop platform AIR. With AIR, you can access the office suite outside your web browser, although you still need to be online.
All in all, if Acrobat.com lives up to Adobe’s promises, it should be a formidable competitor. The site is launching in public testing mode today.
In other Adobe news, the company also announced today that its new version of Adobe Acrobat, Acrobat 9, will include native support for Flash technology. That means Acrobat users can create documents with embedded Flash movies.
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