Overnight, Adobe launched Acrobat.com – a newly-branded Software as a Service offering that combines some pieces they’d already released with some new bits. When you visit the Acrobat.com home page, you’ll find a variety of components, including the Adobe Buzzword word processor (which we looked at in an earlier beta), a limited version of the Adobe ConnectNow conferencing solution, supporting three users, the ability to convert documents to PDF, and file storage and sharing (with 5GB of free space).
The whole is wrapped in a rich user interface that has a distinctly modern look, although this modernity comes at the cost of confusing navigation and non-standard browser controls. The integration between the various parts is sometimes modest; for example, you can’t open a PDF in Buzzword, or view your Buzzword documents in the “My Files” area.
Out in the real world of web workers and work on the web, we’re not convinced yet. Acrobat.com looks like a great service – if you can get your co-workers on board, and that’s a big if.
The individual pieces all seem to work well, though there were some service outages this morning as the web woke up and discovered the new playtoy. Besides Buzzword, ConnectNow is the standout here – it offers desktop sharing, webcam videoconferencing, chat, whiteboard, file sharing, and shared meeting notes across any platform where Adobe AIR runs (which is most everywhere). The version of ConnectNow included is limited to three users, though.
Adobe clearly hopes that Acrobat.com will be a game changer. With the near-universal adoption of Flash and PDF technology, they know a thing or two about making their technology ubiquitous; it seems clear that Acrobat.com is designed to serve both as a showcase site and a way to help drive AIR adoption. They’ve also seized on connectivity and sharing as a unifying theme here; in addition to ConnectNow, there are substantial co-editing features built into Buzzword. The file-sharing component goes beyond the sort of simple web-based attachment replacement that we recently took a skeptical look at to include embedding a Flash preview of documents in your own web page.
Despite the slick interface and attractive features, for most workers, desktop documents and email are still plenty good enough. We’re big fans of many web services, from Flickr to del.icio.us to GMail. But these are all services that we can derive substantial value from without dragging our co-workers along. We don’t expect an immediate rush of everyone to sign up for Acrobat.com accounts, which means the collaborative aspects, nice though they are, won’t be all that useful in the short run.