Adobe reinvents Acrobat for mobile and cloud

Adobe is repackaging many of its existing e-signing and form-routing tools into a pay-as-you-go service akin to its Creative Cloud

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Talk of the paperless office has come and gone for years, with common document formats, like Adobe's PDF, partly bridging the gap.

Adobe's new service, Document Cloud, is betting heavily on the idea that mobile devices, not only PDFs, will help reduce enterprise reliance on paper. At heart, it's a repackaging and streamlining of many existing ideas from Adobe's product line, with Adobe's cloud-based monetization model as the newest parts.

Document Cloud allows paper documents to be captured and reused as PDFs -- not through document scanners, but via the cameras found in mobile devices. Using the new edition of Adobe Acrobat, dubbed Adobe Acrobat Document Cloud (DC), users can snap an image of a document and have it automatically converted to a PDF -- including text that's editable as if it were a native .PDF, not merely a static image.

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Among the services offered by Document Cloud: the ability to e-sign documents on touch-enabled devices or to apply a saved signature.

The resulting document can then be signed, either by using a touch-enabled device or Acrobat DC to apply a previously stored signature image to the document. Adobe also includes a Dropbox-like component of the cloud service, Mobile Link, that allows documents to remain accessible between desktop and mobile devices. Documents routed through the system for signatures also sport tracking information.

If this sounds familiar, that's because pieces of it have been floating inside Adobe's ecosystem for some time. The digital signatures, for instance, come straight from Adobe's EchoSign product, and the OCR-to-PDF component has been present in Acrobat. Likewise, the image-enhancement technology for snapped documents is courtesy of Photoshop.

What's new is the way they've been ganged together and made part of a single workflow, with a touch-centric UI, and with the service packaged so that businesses of all sizes can be accommodated if they need more. Earlier versions of Adobe's products forced the user to pick one of three gradations for the product -- individual, small business, or enterprise -- with bigger discontinuities between them.

Adobe also is pushing Document Cloud as a cloud-based reinvention of its document services. It's an echo of Adobe's reworking of Photoshop and its associated products into Creative Cloud, including the pay-as-you-go monetization model. Though Adobe offers a stand-alone, perpetual-user license for Document Cloud, it supports only a subset of the features provided by the full cloud version -- and gives users another incentive to opt for the latter instead.

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