Adobe entered the collaboration and Web conferencing space this week, introducing Adobe Acrobat Connect and Adobe Acrobat Connect Professional. The new offering, which builds on a user population of 525 million installed copies of Adobe Reader and 97% desktop penetration of Flash (and this includes all desktops, not just Windows), makes Acrobat Connect a great cross platform conferencing solution.
We took it for a test drive yesterday: here's what we found.Upon entering the Adobe Acrobat Connect meeting, we were greeted by an extraordinarily clean user interface. The meeting was ready immediately - unlike those Web meetings where it takes 10 minutes or so to get all the kinks out of the system. Our test meeting involved knowledge workers in three states and five locations and we experienced little latency when sharing desktops.
Although one mightn't immediately see the connection of Adobe and Web conferencing, once you use the tools, especially the updated Adobe Acrobat and Adobe Reader tools, the benefits become very clear.
Adobe inherited the Macromedia Breeze product, but needed to put the collaboration and document sharing pieces of the puzzle together. Bits and pieces of this puzzle were evident in older versions of Acrobat. An e-mail review document feature in Version 7 of Acrobat, which worked in a parallel fashion, didn't allow other knowledge workers to see their colleagues' comments; the initiator of the review had to reconcile everything at the end. In Acrobat 8, a shared review process extends the collaboration workflow by putting comments in a central shared location (such as a shared network folder or SharePoint workspace - no support yet for Lotus Notes databases here). The recipient now gets an e-mail notification of a shared review, can see who is participating and what the status of the document is - plus he gains a comment toolbar in the actual document.
The Sticky Note feature, first available in Version 4, supporting an asynchronous dialog with time and date stamp (added in Version 7), is now almost real time in Version 8 as each comment is passed back to the shared location. A "start meeting" button also appears in all versions of Acrobat and Reader, making collaboration only one click away.
Adobe is introducing two flavors of Connect: Acrobat Connect Professional and Acrobat Connect. Adobe Acrobat Connect Professional supports multiple meeting rooms per user, more people (Adobe tested 2500 people in one meeting and the system might support even more), support for Voice-over-IP, large events, polling, and a centralized content library. Adobe Acrobat Connect is a simplified version of Professional. It supports meetings with up to 15 knowledge workers in attendance and provides more basic screen sharing, chat, whiteboarding, and integrated audio and video.
What else is new in the Acrobat family for collaboration? One more really neat feature: Acrobat 7 added the ability to create a PDF file from within Microsoft Outlook; Version 8 enables that capability in Lotus Notes.