Adobe making online document services play

Is Adobe sneaking up on Google's turf with new moves Monday into online document services?

Is Adobe sneaking up on Google's turf with new moves this week into online document services? An Adobe executive would not characterize the announcements this way, but the similarities seem obvious.

Adobe has signed an agreement to acquire Virtual Ubiquity and its online word processor, Buzzword, which enables collaboration on documents. Adobe also plans to unveil a file-sharing service codenamed "Share" intended to make it easier to publish and share documents online. The announcements will be made Monday at the Adobe Max 2007 conference in Chicago.

Google, meanwhile, offers Google Docs for document creation as well as for real-time collaboration on presentations via the Web. But Adobe's Erik Larson, director of marketing and product management, would not specifically comment on whether Buzzword or Share encroach on Google or Microsoft's popular Office suite of applications for PCs

"We do believe that Buzzword and Share will solve the problem of working on documents together or with other people in a much more powerful way than anything in the market today," Larson said.

Adobe, Microsoft, and Google are competing with each other on several fronts, said analyst Melissa Webster, of IDC.

"Adobe is already competing for Web-conferencing with other vendors, including Microsoft. And yes, in a way, with Google too as Google is rolling out presentations in its latest incarnation of Google Docs," Webster said.

With Buzzword, Adobe is looking to expand document collaboration.

"The idea is that you should be able to work together on documents with whomever you need to from wherever you might be," Larson said.

Based on Adobe's Flex and Flash Player software, Buzzword offers improvements in document quality and typography. Other highlights include page layout controls and support for integrated graphics without regard to the browser or device.

Buzzword also will work with Adobe's AIR (Adobe Integrated Runtime) technology, which offers a hybrid online/offline experience. It also accommodates hosted or local documents. AIR still is an early release stage.

Document creators with Buzzword can set permissions that regulate version control. Buzzword at its outset will support import and export to .doc and Rich Text Format documents. Soon, support will be added for PDF and ODF (Open Document Format).

Buzzword is available in a beta release by accessing this Web page. No general release date has been set.

Virtual Ubiquity founders will be joining Adobe, which did not disclose the cost of the acquisition.

With Share, users can select documents to share, send a message to recipients, and set file access.

"Share is an online document-sharing service. It makes it very easy to share documents with others and makes it easy to publish those documents as PDFs or share them," Larson said.

Also based on Flex, Share features an interface to integrate workflows and share documents that offer online previews for finding the right document. The beta release of Share will include REST APIs to let developers build mashups and create thumbnails and Flash-based previews of documents. Users can sign up for access to Share here.

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Paul Krill

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