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Adobe adds server version of Acrobat

The software maker announces a server-based version of its set of applications for creating files in the widespread Portable Document Format.

Adobe Systems announced on Monday a server-based version of Acrobat, the company's set of applications for creating files in the widespread Portable Document Format.

Acrobat Elements Server is intended to serve the same audience of general office workers as Acrobat Elements, the low-end version of the software Adobe introduced when it revamped the Acrobat line earlier this year.

Adobe is in the midst of a broad effort to expand the Portable Document Format (PDF)--already widely used for distributing documents over the Internet--into a multipurpose tool for sharing business data.

Acrobat Elements, a $29 application available only under volume licensing plans for larger businesses, was meant to popularize PDF in office environments by providing a few simple tools for converting files to the format for e-mailing and other purposes.

But Adobe executives have acknowledged that sales of that version have been lower than anticipated.

That's partly because many information technology managers balk at the prospect of having to install and manage a new application across thousands of desktops, said Marty Krasilczuk, product marketing manager for Adobe.

"Based on feedback we had from enterprises, we knew that organizations were looking at the ability to turn documents from their native format into PDF," Krasilczuk said. "But a lot of them are saying they don't want to have to deploy this software on every desktop in the enterprise."

Acrobat Elements Server will reside on a central server at the company, where employees can access functions via a Web server or other means. The simplest way to convert a file is to drag it to a desktop folder, Krasilczuk said. The server software converts the file and drops a PDF into another desktop folder.

"The product can be deployed in a few different ways, including e-mail," he said. "I can submit documents to the server by e-mail and have them returned to me in another message. We're offering several options to work in an environment that's familiar to the end user."

Tim Hickernell, an analyst at researcher Meta Group, said the server software should help Adobe's PDF push by opening another inroad into the enterprise. But the more the company targets ordinary office workers, the more it has to promote education on the benefits and proper use of PDF.

"Anytime you give PDF creation tools to a more generic set of knowledge worker...there has to be education that goes along with that, so they know what the format is good for and when to use it," he said. "Rather than just rolling this out and announcing it in the company newsletter, there really needs to be some training."

Acrobat Elements Server will be available starting Nov. 26 at the same pricing as the desktop version--$29 per user, with a minimum order of 1,000 licenses. Adobe also will license the server product to other software makers that want to include basic PDF creation tools in their products.

Hickernell said the licensing plan should be particularly attractive to makers of content management software, who typically need to include some PDF functionality in their products. "For certain document types, PDF creation is absolutely an expectation, and this is a far better tool for providing that than Distiller," Adobe's existing server software for PDF creation, he said.