Adobe's Acrobat.com could be an Office killer; Will interface matter?

Adobe has tied together its online office suite with the beta of Acrobat.com and the user interface is the big differentiator.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor on

Adobe has tied together its online office suite w

ith the beta of Acrobat.com and the user interface is the big differentiator. What remains to be seen is whether online office users care about aesthetics.

On Monday, Adobe unveiled Acrobat.com, a suite that allows you to create word processing documents, share files, convert PDFs and hold Web conferences.

Simply put, Acrobat.com is the best looking online office suite on the block (Techmeme). Google Docs, Zoho and other entrants look fine, but don't exactly stretch the imagination with the interface. Using Flash, Adobe's suite, which includes Buzzword word processor, PDF converter and Web conferencing applications, is slick. Adobe's online applications easily pass--and often top--what you'd find on the desktop. In fact, Adobe's ConnectNow seems to be the killer app in the suite and could be a threat to WebEx.

Here's Buzzword:

And the collaboration tool:

And PDF converter:

The big question: How much will the interface matter? Adobe's online office suite would clearly win a beauty contest, but it's unclear whether users care. There's something about Google Docs that just works. Ditto for Zoho. What's the lock-in factor here? If I'm using one online office suite I may not try another just because swapping platforms can get confusing if you create a bunch of documents.

We'll see how the answers to those questions turn out, but Adobe has another clear motive here. The online suite is a nice way to show off Flash. In addition, Adobe Acrobat 9, which was announced Monday, includes support for Flash. The goal: Create a defensible software and services strategy that will lead to a virtuous sales cycle among various Adobe products.

Acrobat.com is designed to give Acrobat 9 customers a "personal workspace in the clouds," according to Adobe's statement. You can see where this is headed: For Acrobat 9 customers Acrobat.com (statement) is a hybrid software model to keep them in the fold. Meanwhile, Adobe hopes that Acrobat.com will get a few folks to buy its software.

Acrobat 9 offers native support for Flash, touts document sharing and allows users to manage portfolios of PDFs. All of these features work with Acrobat.com in what Adobe hopes will be a nice sales cycle.

Adobe's Acrobat 9 combined with Acrobat.com seems to hit on multiple goals for the company. All it needs now is the user traction. Adobe's suite certainly has the looks.

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