Adobe eyes real-time collaboration with new services

Adobe is preparing two new hosted services that will allow developers to add collaboration to rich Internet applications.

Adobe Systems is preparing two hosted services that will allow developers to add real-time collaboration capabilities, including voice over IP, to RIAs (rich Internet applications). The company demonstrated the services -- code-named Pacifica and CoCoMo -- at its Adobe MAX 2007 user conference in the US this week.

Pacifica is a service that will allow developers to integrate voice, messaging and user presence information into applications built using Adobe Flex, Adobe Integrated Runtime (AIR) or Flash technologies. Flex is Adobe's development environment for building RIAs, which are Web-based applications that incorporate multimedia for a rich user experience. AIR, which is currently available in beta-test form, allows developers to take those Web applications and move them to the desktop.

CoCoMo will be the next-generation framework for the Adobe Connect Web conferencing service, which will enable developers to take certain parts of Connect's functionality and integrate them into other applications. Basically, the company is turning Connect into components for its Flex development environment so developers can build and host collaborative applications on Connect, said Adobe's Chief Software Architect, Kevin Lynch, in an interview this week.

Adobe is beginning a private beta test of Pacifica this month and plans to have the service available more widely next year. Meanwhile, the next version of Adobe Connect will be built on CoCoMo, but the company has not specified a time frame for that release.

Lynch said services such as Pacifica and CoCoMo are part of Adobe's larger strategy for providing the ability to add real-time business collaboration capabilities to RIAs. Companies such as Microsoft and IBM already offer collaboration applications for information workers as desktop and server software, but Adobe is approaching the market from a different perspective, he said.

"People are using Web-based content to collaborate in real time," Lynch said. "We have great experience with this, with client technology like Flash. We hope to deploy this collaboration in a way that will work for everyone."

Lynch said Adobe is leveraging its dual strength in providing Web technologies, such as Flash, and software such as Adobe Acrobat for sharing and collaborating on desktop documents, to compete in this market. With Adobe's Web technologies and hosted services, companies generally don't have to install new client or server software to collaborate, another thing that differentiates Adobe from Microsoft and IBM, he said.

Ron Schmelzer, senior analyst at research firm Zapthink, said Adobe is still trying to figure out its business model around its collaboration services. But it has a great opportunity to create a new way for workers to collaborate that extends what competitors are doing.

"They're not trying to reproduce the word processor. They're trying to create a new model that changes the whole concept of sharing documents and collaborating with other people online," he said. "This market is theirs to capture."

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