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2/14/2011
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Adobe Launches Web Forms Software

FormsCentral allows SMB and other "knowledge" workers to easily create and manage online surveys, invitations, and other user-response devices, says Adobe.

Adobe FormsCentral: Form Creation
(click image for larger view)
Adobe FormsCentral
Adobe has launched FormsCentral, a new Web-based product for creating and managing HTML forms that the company hopes will help increase its footprint in the small and midsize business (SMB) market.

Adobe had been on the hunt for potential new customer segments while developing Acrobat X, according to Mark Grilli, director of product marketing for Acrobat Solutions.

FormsCentral, released on Monday, is the result. Adobe built it "around this idea of the empowered knowledge worker, which is often found in companies of all sizes, but is more than likely small and medium business," Grilli said in an interview. "Our target for this is really that kind of community: People that need to get their jobs done, need to get them done professionally and well, and do so in a way that makes them look larger than they are."

That latter concept is a powerful driver in online marketing: The Web enables smaller businesses to appear "big."

The Web-based forms -- hosted by Adobe at an Adobe URL -- could be deployed for anything requiring user response online, from surveys to event registration. The software includes templates for a variety of use cases, but forms can be customized as well.

Data is captured and managed in real time via an online dashboard that includes collaboration -- what Grilli calls the "removing managing by Excel" feature. The dashboard allows multiple users to manipulate data at the same time without overwriting the original responses.

"'Private view' allows users to go into their own private sandbox and dissect the data based on whatever questions they need to answer," said Varun Parmar, principal product manager of Acrobat Solutions. He noted that multiple users could be simultaneously slicing and dicing the same real-time data without causing data integrity issues.

Ease of use is another key point in Adobe's sales pitch, particularly to smaller companies: The forms require virtually zero IT resources -- an owner or marketing manager, for example, can deploy and manage forms without hitting up the help desk.

There are three pricing options for FormsCentral: Trial offers one free form with up to 50 responses; Basic runs $14.99 per month and enables five forms with up to 500 responses apiece; and Plus provides unlimited forms with up to 5,000 responses each for $199 a year. At launch, the service is only available in English.

While Adobe is unlikely to turn away a customer of any size for FormsCentral, Grilli said that as the company began fine-tuning its definition of the "empowered knowledge worker," it saw a significant population in smaller firms.

"There's a predominance in the SMB market," Grilli said. "When we talk to customers who are in SMB, it's: 'I need to get more done. I need to do it very efficiently. I don't have a lot of infrastructure and support. So I'm going to find the easiest way to get these things done.' So they're just more inclined to adopt new services and new things."

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