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Adobe Piles On Microsoft With Online Word Processor

The company's acquisitions and product launches are designed to form the backbone of a free online document collaboration service.

Adobe on Monday will join Google, IBM, and Sun -- not to mention startups like Ajax13, ThinkFree, TransMedia, and Zoho -- in what's becoming an industry-wide assault on Microsoft Office.

At the Adobe Max Conference in Chicago, Adobe plans to announce that it has signed an agreement to acquire Waltham, Mass.-based Virtual Ubiquity and Buzzword, the startup's Flash-based online word processor.

Buzzword joins Adobe's other online offerings, Acrobat Connect, Create PDF Online, and a new service called Share, to form the backbone of a free online document collaboration service.

"This combination of services is focusing on what we call collaboration on documents that matter," said Erik Larson, Adobe's director of marketing and product management.

Share is being offered as a beta service through Adobe Labs. It allows users to share and publish online documents by inviting friends or colleagues. Shared documents can utilize PDF-based policy limitations to prevent copying or printing, for example.

The Share service also includes a set of REST (Representational State Transfer) APIs to integrate document data into other applications.

Like Google and its Google Docs word processor, Adobe is in this for the collaboration. "We know that people are working online more and together more," said Larson. "They're looking for their productivity increases to be not just individual gains but gains for the group."

But unlike Google Docs, Buzzword feels like a desktop word processor. It understands margins, for example, and its online pages look like their printed output. Rick Treitman, CEO of Virtual Ubiquity, calls this, "WYSIWIS, What You See Is What I See."

"All of our services and long term vision is making sure everyone is seeing the same thing," added Larson.

Adobe is aiming Buzzword at small and midsize businesses, as well as consumers. "We do expect students and educators to use it because the service will be free," said Larson, noting that Buzzword isn't intended for enterprise use.

Adobe plans to add premium services around its online collaboration offerings. The company did not provide any details about what these premium services might be.

At some point next year, when Adobe AIR 1.0 is released, Buzzword will run offline under the AIR platform.

Adobe also plans on Monday to announce that nine media partners that have committed to work with Adobe to distribute their content on Adobe Media Player, Adobe's AIR-based multiplatform application runtime for running Internet applications on the desktop.

Adobe's new partners include CBS, PBS, Yahoo Video, Meredith Corp., Blip.tv, Fora.tv, Motionbox, MyToons, and StimTV.

"As we saw TV moving to Internet distribution, we saw we needed a new kind of player," said Deeje Cooley, product manager for Adobe Media Player. He described that kind of player as one that requires less time to find content and leaves more time to enjoy it.

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