September 30, 2007 9:01 PM PDT

Adobe buys Web word processor Buzzword

Adobe Systems has officially entered the "Web office" game.

The company on Monday is expected to announce that it has acquired an 11-person start-up, called Virtual Ubiquity, that has built a free Web word processor called Buzzword. Financial terms were not disclosed.

The move expands Adobe's collaborative software services and steps up its competition with Microsoft and a host of other Web application providers, including Google.

Adobe also is scheduled to announce a service, code-named Share, that allows people to invite others to view and access documents stored by Adobe. Documents can be embedded inside a Web page as well. The service, which is still in testing mode, will offer users one gigabyte of storage for free.

Adobe executives are scheduled to detail the Buzzword deal and the other initiatives at its Max 2007 developer and designer conference, which starts Monday in Chicago.

Microsoft, meanwhile, is expected on Monday to detail its own document collaboration service called Office Live Workspace, a free online tool for viewing, sharing and storing Office documents online.

In other Max announcements, Adobe plans to release the beta version of its desktop video viewer, Adobe Media Player, which is now being used by CBS, PBS and Yahoo to distribute multimedia content with advertising. Adobe Media Player version 1.0 is due in the first half of next year.

"If anybody has the financial strength, the market reach and the track record of making very good applications, it's Adobe."
--John Doyle, vice president of business development, CommuniGate Systems

The technology underpinning these applications is Adobe's Flash Player and AIR (Adobe Integrated Runtime), software that lets Web applications run offline. The programs were written using its Flex development tool.

The company's strategy is to assemble a series of collaboration products and services on top of its development platform, said Erik Larson, director of marketing and product management at Adobe. Buzzword will complement its existing online services Adobe Connect and Create PDF, he said.

"Our focus is on document collaboration around a lot of different kinds of documents," Larson said. "There is a lot that can be done with the Adobe platform, and there are still unrealized promises."

Larson said Adobe will focus on online collaboration of "high fidelity" documents, or those that appear the same on-screen and when printed out.

The plan is to make these applications free for paid premium services to businesses.

Rick Treitman, CEO of Virtual Ubiquity, said his company decided to use Adobe developer technologies because they were better than other available programming methods. Adobe invested in the company last year as part of a venture fund set up to promote applications on Flash and AIR.

What sets Buzzword apart from other online word processors is the pagination--it allows people to get an accurate view of how a document will print out as the document is edited. It also has the ability to embed graphics, track changes and organize files.

"Flex and Flash were the means to where we want to go. No one else realized how powerful it was as a virtual machine," Treitman said.

During the Max keynote address on Monday, Adobe executives are expected to show off other rich Internet applications written for Flash or AIR.

One of those will be an AIR version of Pronto, an e-mail application from CommuniGate Systems that is expected to be released next spring when AIR 1.0 is available.

John Doyle, CommuniGate Systems' vice president of business development, said Adobe has the wherewithal to build a line of compelling and simple-to-use rich Internet applications that could lure businesses away from Microsoft Office.

"If anybody has the financial strength, the market reach and the track record of making very good applications, it's Adobe," Doyle said. "They're able to overnight-ship applications through Flash to browsers that will be accessible by 96 percent of the users in the world. That's huge."

IBM last month introduced a beta version of Lotus Symphony, a set of traditional desktop applications that Big Blue is offering as a standards-based alternative to Office.

Adobe's Larson said that Adobe isn't trying to necessarily displace the use of Office. Instead, it is focusing on online collaboration products like Buzzword and Acrobat Connect.

"In general, there is a clear willingness in the working world to accept new applications and accept new ways of working," Larson said.

For example, Adobe and people from Virtual Ubiquity used Buzzword to write a press release announcing the acquisition. Using a shared document model, they were able to eliminate about 200 e-mails and attachments with several different versions of the same release.

Adobe's document-sharing applications are aimed at small- and medium-size businesses, while Microsoft has developed Office Live Workspace for large businesses.

For developers, Adobe intends to release REST-style application programming interfaces for both Share and Buzzword.

See more CNET content tagged:
Adobe Systems Inc., Ubiquity, word-processor, online collaboration, business development

 

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