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Adobe Bolsters BPM, Document Security

New server software delivers document services for business process management, document control and document security.
Adobe aims to build on its PDF and Acrobat franchise with new server software that delivers document services for business-process management, document control and document security.

Dubbed LiveCycle, the server software extends the Adobe Intelligent Document Platform, the San Jose, Calif.-based vendor's family of document life-cycle solutions. It includes new services for document control and security--Document Security Server and Adobe Policy Server--as well as a group of services for process management: Adobe Form Manager, Adobe Form Server, Adobe Barcoded Paper Forms Solution, Adobe Reader Extensions Server and Adobe Designer.

Document Security Server, which is shipping now and costs $50,000 per CPU, applies server-side encryption to documents that will last throughout their life cycle. That offering, which will work with Policy Server, due out later this year, is designed to enable users to apply variable levels of control to documents and regulate access to them, even after they exit the firewall.

Policy Server enables logic to be embedded in a document so that when recipients click on the file to view it, they are authenticated, and the document checks back in to ensure that it hasn't been outdated or revoked since it was issued, said Shawn Cadeau, director of product marketing for Adobe's Intelligent Document Business Unit.

The key to access is embedded in the file, so users with Acrobat Reader can interact with the document or view it only, depending on the assigned rights. Controls can be assigned granularly, with some fields locked down and others dynamic. For example, if a user on an insurance form clicks on "married" for marital status, that action could open fields that only pertain to married signatories. Otherwise, those fields would remain hidden, Cadeau said. Users also can save the document to the desktop to work with it offline.

In the realm of digital rights management (DRM), Adobe must contend with capabilities that Microsoft is building into its Windows Server 2003 and Office 2003 applications, industry observers said. But with the millions and millions of Acrobat Readers and PDF files now in circulation, Adobe is a force to be reckoned with, they said.

"PDF is prevalent. Many customers have already decided on PDFs as the de facto format for external [document] distribution," said Tim Hickernell, an analyst at research firm Meta Group.

What Adobe now brings to the table in electronic documents are embedded "tokens" so that when a PDF is opened, it "phones home for new rules," Hickernell said.

Also new in Adobe's document life-cycle lineup is the Barcoded Paper Forms Solution, which extracts two-dimensional barcoded data from paper forms.