Adobe Acrobat 9 and Acrobat.com – Not just another Release but a Start into a new Era of Collaboration
I haven’t blogged a lot about Adobe products recently, and yes I work for Adobe so I am biased. For the last weeks I have used internal releases of the just announced Acrobat 9 and Acrobat.com and I am very impressed. I don’t work in the Acrobat team, but during the last year I did a lot of research on collaboration in the enterprise and started a seed project in Adobe Corporate Development to envision and build a solution which will allow people to mashup custom workspaces on their desktop and collaborate with others in real time – all that without expensive IT investments but a simple subscription to a hosted service.
With that perspective I found the new Acrobat release in combination with Acrobat.com a significant move for Adobe into the next generation enterprise collaboration space. So what impressed me the most? Acrobat.com delivers a suite of hosted services for document management and collaboration. What is truly amazing is that you get a real-time collaboration service including audio and video conferencing as well as screensharing for up to 3 participants for free. This service, called Connect Now can be accessed directly in the free Adobe Reader and in Acrobat. So while looking at a document you can kick off real time application sharing and then switch over into screen sharing if needed. Connect Now can really jump-start the momentum for web based real time collaboration in the enterprise. No more signing up and scheduling for a web conferencing session. Just use your Acrobat.com account, email your collaboration room URL to others and do it. No need to involve the IT department and since the client runs in the Flash Player no complex installs either!
Additionally Acrobat.com features document file sharing, including the ability to review documents right in the browser or embed them into your blog (see below) or web site.
There is even an AIR based client with a nifty “mini-mode” for easy uploading. Finally if you haven’t tried Buzzword, the flash based online word processor yet it is now integrated in Acrobat.com and features new capabilities like PDF generation.
So what’s new in Acrobat 9 then? Yes, there are significant performance improvements customers have asked for and that’s very important, but there is much more. There are three features, which impressed me the most. The integrated real-time collaboration is really cool and useful. This allows you to work in real-time with others on reviewing a document. Once you start the real-time collaboration session flipping pages, zooming and other features are synchronized in real-time between users. This is not traditional screensharing but two separate instances of Acrobat working in synch. I believe this type of application collaboration will become more and more popular and is also an important feature for my current project. We are actually using Cocomo, which is the public developer API for Connect Now.
Acrobat 9 also treats Flash content as a first class citizen. This means you can embed Flash movies and widgets right into your PDF document and they stay fully interactive (including Flex applications). Talking about movies in PDF, the Acrobat team has built a set of video annotation capabilities. Now you cannot only mark up the document but you can make annotations right in the video. While not so important for my daily work this is a true time saver for people collaborating on video content editing.
One last feature you should check out in Acrobat 9 are portfolios. A small team started with the mission to make PDF’s engaging and fun to work with. Not a small feat since we are talking about boring documents. In collaboration with the Adobe Experience Design team they came up with a really cool way to package documents into an animated and dynamic portfolio. Best of it no programming skills required. Leveraging the power of Flex users can choose from different ways to present and browse the documents in a portfolio. It is hard to describe so I suggest you have a look at it yourself.
Beyond all the single new features what really excites me is that this release rings in a new era of productivity applications for the enterprise, which combine an engaging user experience with the networking power of the Internet. Genesis, the code name for the project I am working on, is another major step into this direction. So keep you eyes open and you will learn more about Genesis here and in a new Blog I will start soon with the rest of the Genesis team.