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New Acrobat seen this year

Analysts and authors expect Adobe to release a new version of its publishing software soon.

Adobe Systems is expected to release a new version of its Acrobat software by the end of 2004, according to analysts and authors familiar with the company's plans.

Acrobat is Adobe's family of tools for creating content based on the company's portable document format, or PDF, the cornerstone of Adobe's "intelligent document" push to make PDF documents the foundation for exchanging business data.

The current version of Acrobat was released in April 2003, with Adobe adding a light-duty version for ordinary office workers and later a server version.

Adobe typically lets two years pass between Acrobat releases, but Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster said in a report published Thursday that Acrobat 7 is likely to come in ahead of schedule, either in late December or early January. Munster cited industry trends and publicity material for several Acrobat how-to books scheduled for publication early next year.

An Adobe representative declined to comment.

Web sites for leading technology-related publishers Wiley and Osborne both list upcoming books on "Acrobat X." The Wiley book promises an in-depth guide to "the powerful new release of Adobe Acrobat, expected in late 2004." The Osborne book is set for publication Jan. 18, while the Wiley titled is pegged for February.

Several financial analysts have downgraded their rating on Adobe in the past few months, based on concerns that the company will see a typical downturn in sales between major product releases. Munster has kept his "outperform" rating, however, saying an anticipated revival in magazine advertising and continuing interest in Adobe's enterprise and Creative Suite products should help keep the company on trend. "We believe these solid fundamental trends will continue," Munster wrote in Thursday's report.