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acrobat_logoFor the past year, Adobe‘s online office software site has been completely free, but that’s about to change. Core products like the Buzzword word processor will remain free, but Adobe says it’s now offering paid services too. is Adobe’s answer to online collaboration services like Google Docs. I’m not a regular user, but when I tried out Buzzword I thought it was a better-looking, richer product than Google Docs. On the down side, until recently didn’t offer two key pieces of office software — spreadsheets and presentations. It only added a tool called Presentations to its Labs area (for early, unpolished products) last month, and is adding its spreadsheet-maker Tables today.

Still, Product Manager Erik Larson says the site now has 5 million users. Presumably, many of those 5 million aren’t regulars, but Larson says, “Hundreds of thousands of business people use it every day.”

As for making money from the site, Adobe is now offering two plans: Premium Basic ($14.99 per month or $149 per year) and Premium Plus ($39 per month or $390 per year). That’s more expensive than Google Apps, which packages services like Gmail and Google Docs together for $50 per user per year, but it includes very different services. Whereas Apps is charging primarily for additional support and customization, both premium versions of also include web meetings and the ability to create documents in the PDF format. When I asked Larson why Adobe isn’t charging for some of the other services, particularly Buzzword, he said Adobe is still trying to help customers get used to the online software model. While it might be hard to convince companies to pay for a web-based word processor, they’re used to paying for web meetings, he said.

Adobe is also releasing more details about where goes from here. The big vision is threefold: To bring people together around documents, not inboxes; to help people work together in real-time; and to be simple, powerful, and fun. Larson hinted at some other changes too, saying, “I don’t necessarily think presentations, spreadsheets, documents are these three separate things, even though I know that’s the way world thinks right now.”

The next item on the product roadmap comes this fall, namely integration with Adobe AIR, the company’s platform for applications that run on the computer desktop while also accessing the web, plus access from smartphones.

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