Acrobat Still Suffering from Schizophrenia

On Monday, in the wee hours of the night (my email was sent at 12:27 a.m.) Adobe emitted three short press releases announcing Acrobat 8. I’m a fan of Acrobat and PDF, so I always look forward to new versions of this ungainly but hugely-popular product. Sadly release #8, at first look-see, leaves me thoroughly unmoved.

The main press release captures the excitement behind the announcement: “The Acrobat 8 product line introduces several major innovations in the areas of document collaboration, PDF content reuse, PDF forms, packaging of multiple documents, and controlling sensitive information. For example, shared reviews put collaboration within the reach of virtually anyone with access to a shared network folder and Adobe Reader2. A participant in a shared review can see comments posted by others, track the status of the review, and work even when not connected – reducing duplicated work and enabling large groups to collaborate more efficiently. Acrobat 8 also enables PDF content to be exported into popular formats to enable reuse and repurposing of content.”

Most of these “innovations” are just “new and improved” old features.

If you’re looking for news, press release #2 is where to turn. Macromedia Breeze is now called Acrobat Connect, and will be available at a lower price-point and to smaller groups of users than the old not-so-gentle Breeze. This represents the first fruit of Adobe’s $3.4 billion acquisition of Macromedia. How do ya like them apples?
Press release #3 reveals that Adobe will continue to nurse Acrobat and PDF through its severe case of schizophrenia. Acrobat 8 ($449 by itself) will also be bundled into the awkwardly named Adobe Creative Suite 2.3 Premium edition ($1199). This is “to enable creative and print professionals to efficiently create, collaborate with, and automate output of Adobe PDF files.”

A few years back, Adobe came close to abandoning this group of PDF enthusiasts (and major buyers of Creative Suite). It realized the gross error of its ways at the 11th hour, and now makes sure to invite them for tea each time there’s something new happening with Acrobat. The features that appeal to “creative and print professionals” bear little resemblance to the features that appeal to the “knowledge workers,” who remain the big buyers of Acrobat itself. So while each group is told a slightly different story, Acrobat’s schizophrenia has not blocked its ever-growing popularity.

Also in press release #3 we find the second instance of the fruit-bearing acquisition. Not surprisingly, Adobe has decided to jettison the never-very-successful GoLive out of Creative Suite in favor of the incredibly successful Dreamweaver. Saving face, somewhat unconvincingly, we’re informed that “Adobe will continue to develop GoLive as a standalone product.” Right. That’s until Adobe finishes getting a little cash off the GoLive orphans as they make the switch (“upgrade”) to Dreamweaver.

The word on the street is that Creative Suite itself will be upgraded to V3 by early next year. Perhaps then the flaccid features of Acrobat 8 will start to make more sense. Or maybe some knowledge workers will acquire some knowledge, enough to tell us why this upgrade was released.

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