Adobe makes Acrobat deal with SAP

The software maker accelerates its effort to strengthen core business segments with the announcement of a deal with SAP for the use of Acrobat and PDF software.

Adobe Systems accelerated its push into enterprise software Wednesday with an announcement that SAP will bundle Adobe document applications with SAP's e-commerce software.

The announcement, made at SAP's user conference in Orlando, Fla., initially means that Adobe's Acrobat and PDF software for creating and distributing electronic documents will be included with, the company's software for running e-commerce operations. The products will be integrated so that information stored in SAP applications can automatically be converted to electronic documents for easy distribution throughout a business and beyond.

Acrobat is widely used on individual PCs for creating and reading PDF documents, but Adobe hopes to spread the technology with server-based versions of the software.

Adobe, best known for graphics software such as Photoshop, is at the beginning of a far-ranging drive to extend further into core business segments. In January, the company released AlterCast, server software that manages use and distribution of images throughout a business. That was followed by Adobe's acquisition of Accelio, a Canadian company that makes software for managing data submitted through online forms.

Adobe also recently expanded its FrameMaker publishing software with server components, part of the company's vision for "network publishing," in which documents are automatically reformatted for distribution throughout a business. FrameMaker can reformat the same document for delivery in various forms, such as an HTML Web page, an Acrobat print file or a Palm handheld document.

"There are huge challenges in automating and accelerating document-based processes that have traditionally slowed the pace of business," Adobe CEO Bruce Chizen said in a statement. "Adobe and SAP share this similar vision of network publishing for the enterprise that empowers people to collaborate more effectively beyond organizational boundaries."

Shantanu Narayen, executive vice president of worldwide products for Adobe, said integrating Acrobat with SAP will allow businesses to get more value from their data by producing easy-to-read documents from complex sources such as billing and inventory systems.

"One scenario might be where you're trying to present a bill that goes outside" the corporate network, he said. "If you did that today, you'd probably do it by paper and mail it to the customer. With Acrobat, you can do it live with an electronic document. You can really accelerate the business process going from paper to electronic."

Several Accelio applications already work with SAP, Narayen said, but it will take time to develop a full line of products that communicate with each other.

"All of our products will interoperate with SAP," he said. "We've got a good start on that, but obviously the deep embedding, that will take a little while to bring to market."

Joshua Duhl, an analyst for research firm IDC, said it will be a technical challenge to get Acrobat and SAP to fully work together, but the potential payoff is significant.

"They've got joint engineering teams that have a lot of work to do to make this vision a reality," Duhl said. "When it comes together, though, this integration will allow them to tap into content that's stored in SAP systems that's usually highly structured--things like accounts receivable, payroll, inventory status--and incorporate them into an Adobe document that's much easier to read and distribute...It's part of Adobe's overall vision of making a streamlined, paperless environment for distributing documents."