Adobe in online document services play

Word processor buy has industry speculating

Is Adobe sneaking up on Goggle's turf with new moves into online document services? An Adobe executive says he doesn’t characterise the announcements this way, but the similarities seem obvious.

Adobe has signed an agreement to acquire vendor 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.

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, won’t comment on whether Buzzword or Share encroach on Google or Microsoft’s popular Office suite of applications.

“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 says.

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

“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 says.

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,” Adobe’s Larson says.

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 is still in 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).

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 says.

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.

While Buzzword and Share sound similar, Larson points to dissimilarities.

“The reasons to use the services are different,” he says. Buzzword is for creating documents and features a rich versioning system to track changes, he says. Share is a SaaS-based offering for getting a document out to other people when a user is finished with it, he says.

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Tags technologyadobevirtual ubiquity

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