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After a Year of Free Beta, Acrobat.com Adds Fees

Adobe Acrobat.com

Adobe is officially removing the "beta" tag from its year-old Acrobat.com, formally launching the online application service -- which features office productivity apps and services like collaboration and PDF conversions -- while also introducing a price tag.

After one year in beta, Acrobat.com becomes a paid service, although there will still be some free services for those who need minimal support. The service has racked up five million registered users while available as a free beta, Adobe has said.

There will be three levels of service: the free version, Premium Basic and Premium Plus. Free users will only be able to connect with two people at once in ConnectNow, the real-time collaboration tool, and the ability to convert up to five PDFs per month.

The Premium Basic will run $14.99 per month or $149 per year. It allows for up to five meeting participants in ConnectNow and 10 PDF conversions per month. Premium Plus, which runs $39 a month or $390 annually, has unlimited PDF conversions and allows up to 20 people in ConnectNow. Both Premium services will have support, while the free service will not.

There are plenty of free services out there, so why does Adobe (NASDAQ: ADBE) think people will pay for Acrobat.com?

Collaboration, according to Mark Grilli, group product marketing manager for Acrobat.com.

"The opportunity is really around making yourself more productive, and the current tools really aren't the way to get more done," he told InternetNews.com. "We're targeting people who have to work in a collaborative environment on a regular basis, with teams across companies and multiple locations."

Very few documents are created on their own, he noted, they are always made in a partnership with someone else with shared goals. Hence the ability to work together, see who is working on a document in real time and what they are doing while they are doing it.

This applies to Buzzword, the word processor, Tables, the spreadsheet, and PDF maker. They feature the ability to track changes and roll back changes to previous versions, and Buzzword can import and export Word document files. Eventually, Tables will read and write Excel files, Grilli said.

In addition to working from your PC, Acrobat.com offers mobile access so people can upload, manage and share documents from most smartphones, including the Apple iPhone, RIM Blackberry, and Nokia and Windows Mobile smartphones.

To access the service at present, you need a special Adobe client, built on its AIR technology. But come this fall, Adobe plans to offer a Web-based interface that gives most of the AIR client experience. The AIR client, though, has some features just not possible in a browser, like drag-and-drop support for documents from the user's desktop to Acrobat.com, or vice versa.

This fall, Adobe also plans to create a single storage location. Currently, documents generated online are stored in one location while uploaded files are stored in another. Soon they will have a single, unified repository.

This winter, Adobe also expects to add shared workspaces and PDF workflows, similar to the Buzzword workflows.

Adobe plans to keep Acrobat.com as an on-demand service for the time being. "We talked about offering it as an on-premises server, but it's not on the roadmap. Want to nail the cloud first," Grilli said.