Adobe is continuing to convert its venerable Acrobat software from a PDF authoring program into a tool for business process management.
The company on Monday announced Acrobat XI, an update that aims to address corporate collaboration and productivity challenges. In so doing, it is trying to change the image that people have of PDFs from authoritative, static documents that are the end result of the creative process to living documents that evolve through collaboration. Acrobat XI makes unlocked PDF files more easily editable from within the application, so that additional editing software isn't required.
"This is basically opening up the value of the content that's stored in all those PDF files out there ... and letting people do more with them," said Ali Hanyaloglu, a senior marketing manager with Adobe's Acrobat Solutions group, at a media preview of the technology last month. "And that means they're more valuable."
At the event, Mark Grilli, director of product marketing at Acrobat Solutions, said that Adobe is "moving more into the cloud than we ever have before" and the company is focusing on meeting the needs of businesses in addition to creative professionals.
In the last few years, Grilli said, Adobe has spent a lot of time thinking about the costs associated with document workflows in companies and has concluded that much can be done to improve productivity through business process improvements.
[ What is really happening at Adobe? Read Adobe Reborn. ]
Adobe commissioned research firm IDC to look into document productivity issues. The firm found that the annual cost of document-based productivity challenges for a 1,000 person company adds up to $15.9 million annually, enough to hire an additional 213 employees at cost of about $75,000 each.
Grilli said the inefficiencies contributing to that cost consisted of activities like getting feedback on documents, reusing content, seeking managerial approval, and document routing and transfer challenges. Many companies, he said, still use a lot of paper-based workflows.
"If you use Acrobat to do things like reviews, you can really cut your review time in half," he said.
Grilli said that Adobe's software can help companies in four specific areas: productivity, collaboration, security, and working across different devices.
Much of the productivity and collaboration benefit that Adobe hopes companies will be able to realize with Acrobat XI flows through the cloud, specifically through Adobe EchoSign, the company's digital signature service, and Adobe FormsCentral, the company's online form creation service. Using these services, Adobe expects companies will be able to create documents, rout them to appropriate personnel, and complete any approval process more easily through an integrated digital workflow.
Enhanced mobile support in Acrobat XI allows users to interact with online forms and sign documents from phones or tablets.
And Acrobat XI also provides the ability to save PDF documents as Excel, PowerPoint, or Word files, or as a webpage.
Adobe aspires to simplify life for IT departments by providing a touch-aware PDF Reader that behaves consistently on iOS and Android tablets. Its Acrobat XI software can run as a Microsoft App-V virtual application through Citrix XenApp.
Adobe says that Acrobat XI is scheduled to ship within 30 days. Acrobat XI Standard lists for $299 ($139 upgrade). Adobe XI Pro sells for $499 ($199 upgrade) and will be available to use on a trial basis for 30 days. Educational and government pricing can be found through either the Adobe Education Store or the Adobe Government Store. EchoSign and FormsCentral each start at $15 per month, with free cloud service trials available. Reader XI, software for reading PDF files, will be available as a free download when Acrobat ships.