Adobe Rolls Out Integrated PDF/Flash Products

One test of success in any merger or acquisition is how well the corporate cultures of the merging companies mesh together. While the jury is still out on the meshing of Adobe and Macromedia’s corporate cultures, Adobe seems to be passing another vital test—integrating Macromedia technologies into newly minted Adobe products that add additional value to the general user. Two particular products, Captivate 2 and Acrobat 8, are leading the integration charge.

Captivate 2, to be released later this fall, builds on the basic premise of the original Captivate program, which was Adobe’s first screen capture program. Captivate was designed to allow lectures or other training events to be recorded and then played back.

Captivate 2, however, takes a much more holistic approach to training content creation and distribution. Employing a scenario-based wizard, a Captivate 2 content creator is able to create multi-path scenarios—which take into account more than just yes or no answers—with ease. Scenarios created in Captivate allow the end user to explore a series of potentially right answers, gaining points or credits for some partially correct answers and more points for exactly right answers. Captivate 2 also provides content creators both a visual view of the flow of answers from screen to screen as well as a table view that displays pertinent information about multiple slides in a spreadsheet-like format for easier modification of content.

Captivate 2’s real power, though, lies in its ability to output the content seamlessly into a Flash file. This means that fully self-contained training modules, complete with multimedia content like Flash 8 Video files, can be loaded on to a standard web server.

"We feel the integration of Macromedia’s Flash interactivity—a strong part of our ongoing strategy—into Captivate 2 provides a solid platform for branching beyond the standard screen capture feature that Captivate 1 provided," says Silke Fleischer, Adobe’s product manager for the Captivate product line. "Scenario-based training modules that contain Flash 8 video files continue to add benefit to the new product."

Acrobat 8, the newest version of Adobe’s flagship page creation product that was announced last week, will contain a single-button collaboration solution. This solution, formerly called Macromedia Breeze, is now being called Acrobat Connect. Connect comes as a hosted solution that allows up to 15 participants to collaborate together; the service will be launched in November 2006, and will be available for either $39 per month per user or $395 per year per user. A free trial of Acrobat Connect will be available from late November through the end of the year, while the Acrobat Connect Professional version will be available in December.

The integration into Acrobat 8 is one way that Adobe hopes to drive the hosted service forward, counting on ease of accessibility and ease of use to leverage the service for the average user.

"We believe web collaboration needs to be as easy as sending and viewing a PDF document, so anyone can reap the benefits of meeting online in real-time," says Tom Hale, senior vice president of Adobe’s Knowledge Worker Business Unit. "Since nearly everyone already has the Flash Player installed, Acrobat Connect makes it extremely easy to go from looking at your computer screen to sharing it with others, regardless of their platform or version of software."

The move toward Flash and PDF as the two primary tools in the Adobe arsenal, each with a paid creation portion and a freely distributed player portion, allows Adobe to argue that developers should use the Acrobat Connect Collaboration Builder SDK to create custom interactive applications like engaging learning games and simulations.

"The motion forward is around personal and project spaces where people can communicate around certain issues and topics," says Ricky Liversidge, a product marketing manager at Adobe, said. "It's like having my personal meeting room—a URL where you go forward and store documents."

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