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Adobe bets on cloud collaboration for Acrobat XI

Predicts the death of paper contracts

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Adobe is upgrading the Acrobat platform to include cloud collaborative editing of PDFs and PowerPoint decks, as well as the touch and mobile friendly features and automatic form generation it says customers have been demanding.

Acrobat XI is an attempt by Adobe to move its online document dominance into the cloud realm and not get stuck in a rut, so it's building in collaborative working tools so that enterprise users can create multi-editor PDFs on the fly.

Adobe's also tying itself more closely to Microsoft, since these PDFs can also be integrated into formats usable by PowerPoint, Word or Excel. PowerPoint junkies will be moist to know that they can then save all these files into slide decks, and the systems has been tweaked to work with Office 365 and SharePoint.

This linkage may make sense, but Adobe may be inviting the beast into feast. Office 2013 will bundle pretty much the same capabilities for PDF editing and Adobe is going to have to offer something extra to avoid being subsumed into Redmond's maw.

On that note, last year's purchase of electronic-signature firm EchoSign is getting monetized, with a $14.95 per month option to use the service, and mobile support if document signing is also built in. Mark Grilli, senior director of product marketing at Adobe, predicted a huge rise in the number of electronically signed contracts.

"We think that roughly 1 per cent of contracts are getting signed on the web right now across, all the formats, and we think it's going to go to 50 in the next couple of years," he said. "It is revolutionary in terms of what it's doing for customers."

FormsCentral is also included for $14.99 a month – those four cents over EchoSign must really be worth it. FormsCentral is an automated bureaucracy generator system that will be beloved by HR and purchasing departments worldwide, with all the aforementioned integration systems.

Adobe has also added UI options for touch and mobile users. An adjustable UI system will increase button sizes for tablets and use a slimmed-down interface for mobile users. Adobe's betting on Android and Apple initially, but other mobile OSes may get support as needed.

Acrobat XI will be released before the end of the month in the following flavours:

  • The basic free Reader option to view PDFs;
  • a Standard Edition costing $299 (or $139 for an upgrade) that gives PDF cloud creation and electronic signing; and
  • the Pro build for $449 (or $199 upgrade) that covers all the options.

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