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Adobe Jumps Gun on Microsoft's Xdocs

With Microsoft nipping at its heels in the network publishing space, Adobe Monday said it would push its heralded Acrobat product line to the enterprise market.

The San Jose, Calif.-based firm said the Adobe Document Server and Adobe Document Server for Reader Extensions are the latest server-side tools being marketed to clients looking to integrate enterprise applications with document workflows.

Coming on the heels of Microsoft's entrance into the fray with its XDocs addition to the Office 11 suite, Adobe is clearly moving to get a head start on the Redmond-based software behemoth.

Microsoft's XDocs, which is due for shipping in the middle of 2003, is aimed squarely at the market dominated by the likes of Adobe and Macromedia . When Microsoft unveiled XDocs, it was styled as a new XML-based application to allow businesses to create forms and then integrate the information into their business processes.

Not much is known about how Microsoft plans to position and market XDocs within the all-new Office 11 suite but Adobe has wasted no time pushing its own alternative to enterprise clients.

Adobe believes the server products, priced at $20,000 per CPU, would combine nicely with nearly half-a-billion copies of the free Acrobat Reader to give companies a platform to collaborate with their customers and partners via secured documents in online and offline environments.

"Adobe Document Server lets customers dynamically assemble customized Adobe PDF files from a variety of data sources to create documents such as technical manuals, electronic forms, contracts, business reports and invoices," the company said.

The Adobe Document Server for Reader Extensions lets business clients assign usage rights to PDF documents and forms. Once rights have been assigned, users of the free Adobe Acrobat Reader would be able to save, fill and route PDF forms, add electronic sticky notes for comments or questions, and digitally sign completed forms.

Adobe had previously made these features only available with the full Adobe Acrobat 5.0 software. Now, by taking Acrobat server-side, companies and government agencies can now integrate completed Adobe PDF forms and data in XML with back-end systems for round-trip transactional workflows.

It said the software would let enterprises to tap into existing ERP, CRM and CMS systems, document management systems and databases to generate business communications in PDF format.

"Adobe Document Server also accepts XML commands, and supports Extensible Style Language Formatting Objects (XSL-FO), an industry standard for describing how an XML document should be formatted for a variety of media," the company explained.