Adobe adds conferencing features to collaboration apps

Adobe Systems (http://www.adobe.com) has unveiled the fruits of its acquisition of Macromedia's Breeze online conferencing software along with the next version of its document tool Acrobat.

Acrobat Connect and Connect Professional are Adobe's rebranding of the Flash-based Breeze software that Adobe acquired last year. The Connect version is a hosted service targeted at small and midsize businesses, and the Professional is on-premise software outfitted with corporate features such as reporting, management and voice integration.

On the client side, users need only a browser and a Flash player to support conferencing.

With Acrobat, Adobe is introducing Version 8, which includes a conferencing button that allows even users with the free Reader version to instantly enter an online meeting.

The company also has added other collaboration features, such as shared reviews, that allow documents to be stored on the network and all editing comments entered into a single file.

"With the addition of Connect, we are extending the idea of collaboration from being document based so that from within Acrobat you can launch into a Connect meeting," says Marion Melani, group product marketing manager for Adobe.

She says Adobe expects to compete in conferencing with WebEx and Microsoft's Live Meeting.

With Acrobat Connect Professional users get tools to support large meetings, content management, interactive multimedia, telephony and VOIP. It has a companion software developers kit for building applications on top of the platform.

Connect, which can used as a hosted service or deployed locally, runs on Windows 2000 and 2003 server. It installs a Microsoft SQL Server database, an Adobe JRun application server and a Flash Media Server. Users also can deploy redundant backup servers and "stream consolidation" servers that act as a proxy to relieve user load on the main Connect server.

Adobe will offer a free trial version of the Acrobat Connect hosted service from November through December with an English-only service slated to debut in early 2007. The price will be US$39 per user per month. Acrobat Connect Professional is slated for availability in December in English, German, French, Japanese and Korean. Professional will start at around US$15,000 for a base server configuration. Per-user pricing will start at US$500 per seat.

Adobe's Melani says besides integration with the Connect conferencing features, Acrobat 8 includes an electronic forms feature that allows data to be collected in real time from online forms. Abode also has redesigned Acrobat's user interface.

The highlight for Acrobat, however, is the shared-views feature that now provides centralized, group-editing features even for users with the basic Acrobat Reader client. Users can see each other's comments, track the status of the document review and work in disconnected mode. Acrobat 8 also adds an export feature so content can be exported in word processing and spreadsheet formats.

Acrobat 8 Professional is priced at US$449, while the Standard version is priced at US$299.

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