Adobe Takes Competition to the Max

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2007-10-01

Adobe Takes Competition to the Max


Adobe Takes Competition to

the Max">

CHICAGO—Adobe Systems is looking to expand its competition with titans such as Microsoft and Google by entering into new areas, including word processing and document sharing, and bolstering its positions in other areas.

At its annual Max 2007 users conference here Oct. 1, Adobe is expected to announce that it has signed a definitive agreement to acquire Virtual Ubiquity and its online word processor, Buzzword. Adobe also will announce the addition of a new file-sharing service to its current online document services. Code-named "Share," the beta service will make it easier for people to share, publish and organize documents online, said Erik Larson, director of marketing and product management at the San Jose, Calif., software maker.

Share is a free, online document-sharing service, Larson said. Users select the documents they want to share, send a message to recipients and set whether the files will be publicly accessible or restricted, he said. The service is built with Adobe Flex technology. The beta will include a set of REST (Representational State Transfer) APIs to let developers create mash-ups with their applications—including storing and accessing files—as well as creating thumbnails and Flash-based previews of documents.

The Share service can be integrated with Adobes Acrobat Connect, which together with Buzzword will form the basis of a free online service from Adobe. However, over time, Adobe will offer premium online subscription services and developer services based on Share, Larson said. The move adds to Adobes push into the SAAS (software-as-a-service) space and looks to compete with the likes of Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft and Google, of Mountain View, Calif.

With Share, users can send documents without e-mail attachments, access their documents from anywhere, view all the documents they have shared or received in one place, post a link to their document on a wiki or blog, embed a Flash preview of their document on any Web site, and limit access to a document to a list of recipients, Adobe officials said.

Read more here about Adobes AIR bus.

Adobes next steps for Share include providing improved file organization—tags, filters and user-defined collections—the ability to print from any application to create a PDF directly on Share, as well as PDF conversion for Microsoft Office and ODF documents, Adobe officials said.

Adobe is offering its Web conferencing, PDF creation and new Buzzword word-processing capabilities along with REST APIs for developers to use the Adobe service infrastructure to add to their applications, Larson said. The company also will provide APIs based on its Flex Web development technology and the ActionScript Flash-oriented development language, he said.

"The developer APIs will continue to evolve," Larson said.

The acquisition of Waltham, Mass.-based Virtual Ubiquity is key to the strategy, Larson said. The founders and the entire 11-person Virtual Ubiquity team are expected to join Adobe, he said.

Buzzword, which is based on Adobes AIR (Adobe Integrated Runtime), built with Adobe Flex software and runs in the Adobe Flash Player, enables users to work together to create high-quality, page-perfect documents. Because of its heritage in Adobe technologies, it enables greater document quality, enhanced typography, page layout controls and robust support for integrated graphics, regardless of the browser or device. Its support for Adobe AIR means it can run in a hybrid online/offline environment with the ability to work with both hosted and local documents.

Moreover, the collaboration capabilities in Buzzword enable multiple authors to edit and comment on documents from anywhere, while document creators can set permissions that eliminate version control chaos, Larson said. The Virtual Ubiquity acquisition furthers Adobes commitment to foster a vibrant ecosystem for RIA (rich Internet application) development that delivers experiences built on Adobe AIR, he said.

Members of the team that created Buzzword were also involved in the development of Lotus Notes and eRoom, and some of them worked at Interleaf, a technical publishing software maker that was acquired by Broadvision.

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CEO Rick Treitman said he and his partners founded Virtual Ubiquity two and a half years ago to "build a full-featured word processor that made no sacrifice about running on the Web," Treitman told eWEEK. "We wanted to take advantage of the Web."

Treitman said that in developing Buzzword, Virtual Ubiquity "tried everything—Java, .Net, AJAX [Asynchronous JavaScript and XML]—and we settled on Flash. We used Flex as a way to get in the Flash Player."

With its impending acquisition of Virtual Ubiquity, Adobe is announcing the general release of the Buzzword beta.

Also at Max 2007, Adobe is announcing that the beta version of its Adobe Media Player is available for download from Adobe Labs. The Adobe Media Player is available in English and offered for both Windows and Macintosh operating systems. The final release of the Adobe Media Player is scheduled to be available in early 2008.

Adobe also is announcing that major television broadcasters and leading content publishers, including CBS, PBS, Yahoo Video, Meredith Corp.,,, Motionbox, MyToons and StimTV, are collaborating with Adobe to distribute video content via the new Adobe Media Player, said Deeje Cooley, Adobe Media Player product manager.

Adobe Media Player is Adobes first application built on Adobe AIR, the cross-operating system application runtime that extends RIAs to the desktop. Leveraging Adobes Flash technology, Adobe Media Player enables viewers to enjoy content from these broadcast television and Web video providers, giving them control to watch their favorite shows both online and offline in an engaging, customized video experience, Cooley said.

Adobe Media Player is a lightweight desktop application that offers new features for both viewers and content owners, the company said. The player allows viewers to watch content online or download and view videos offline, all with full-screen playback. A subscription feature of the product easily enables viewers to subscribe to their favorite shows or podcasts and then automatically receive new episodes as they become available. Adobe Media Player is cross-platform, based on open standards—including RSS (Really Simple Syndication) and SMIL (Synchronized Multimedia Integration Language)—and brings viewers the ability to play Adobe Flash Player compatible video, the Webs most popular video format, outside of their browser, Cooley said.

In a separate move, Adobe is unveiling a new partnership with Business Objects, of San Jose. Together, the vendors will develop technologies that combine the power of business intelligence with more engaging user applications, officials from both companies said. The collaboration will include the development of a Business Objects Xcelsius Connector for Adobes LiveCycle Data Services, which will let users stream real-time data into Xcelsius interactive dashboards, animated charts and graphs, financial presentations, or business calculators.

In addition, the companies will explore the integration of Adobe Flex, AIR and Xcelsius. This would allow developers to create more engaging BI applications in a shorter period of time, and give end-users a richer experience whether working in or outside the browser, company officials said.

Moreover, with export to Adobe AIR, Xcelsius will open up Adobe AIR development to a new, non-developer audience with its unique capability to create interactive Adobe AIR applications without writing a single line of code, Business Objects officials said.

Meanwhile, CommuniGate Systems, of Mill Valley, Calif., is announcing Oct. 1 a public beta of its unified communications framework, Pronto, built on Adobe AIR.

CommuniGate officials said Pronto supports features not possible with traditional Web mail or browser-delivered RIAs. For example, Pronto users can open separate windows for IM, calendars and events, and e-mail. The latest version also provides a seamless offline/online transition, as Pronto automatically detects the presence of an available network and prompts the user to send any queued messages.

Jon Doyle, vice president of business development at CommuniGate, said that "with AIR, Pronto delivers a more powerful, intuitive experience that puts the Web 2.0 office in the users hands today. We see Pronto as a unique extensible framework where social networks and businesses can plug in applications leveraging the powerful unified communications applications in mash-ups."

Pronto will be available in early 2008, the company said.

On Sept. 26, Adobe announced that it is offering free training in ActionScript 3.0, the language of Flash.

Starting in October and going through 2008, Adobe will host training sessions for developers worldwide who use Adobe Flash, Flex and AIR extensions and who have beginner- to intermediate-level programming skills. The training will be a full-day session led by a Flash and ActionScript expert, Collin Moock, who will cover topics such as object-oriented programming, classes, objects, variables, methods, packages, conditionals, loops, operators, functions, error handling, event handling, display programming, compiling, and running programs, the company said.

The tour starts Oct. 27 in San Francisco and will reach nine cities worldwide including Los Angeles, New York City, Chicago and major design markets in Europe and Asia Pacific.

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