Adobe Systems is the latest entrant to the increasingly popular field of software-as-a-service (define) and online applications by virtue of its purchase of a startup firm that's been developing an online word processor that's coincidentally built on Adobe technology.
The company on Monday announced that it has signed a definitive agreement to acquire Virtual Ubiquity, developer of the Buzzword word processor. Buzzword is built on Adobe's AIR technology, formerly known as Apollo, and Adobe's Flex technology.
It will work online or offline, in a browser or on a desktop, on Windows, Macintosh or Linux, and provide the exact same experience regardless of platform or connection status. Adobe is promising that Buzzword will be the next generation in online, collaborative document creation and management.
"We believe the current experiences people have online is just the beginning of how work is going to change in the next few years," Erik Larson, director of marketing and product management for Adobe, told InternetNews.com. "This provides an application experience as good or better than any desktop app for collaborative word processing but also brings in the online features people want."
The acquisition is expected to close in November. The founders of Virtual Ubiquity will be joining Adobe to continue developing the software. Because it's an online product, they can make iterative improvements to it rather than update it every few years as is standard practice with packaged applications.
"It's cool to be able to iterate a product. It means you enter into a dialogue with your users on an ongoing basis as you release new features," said Rick Treitman, CEO of Virtual Ubiquity.
Buzzword is hardly the first online word processor nor is Adobe the first company to promise collaboration on documents. Microsoft has been talking about doing that with Word for years. One of the promises of AJAX was that it would enable traditional desktop applications to move to the Web, with word processors being one of the more obvious choices.
There are several Web-based word processors available, probably the best known being Writely, which Google acquired in March 2006.
But Larson thinks Buzzword has its own unique offerings.
"It's important to think about what's needed in document collaboration," he said. "If you agree that people will be working together more online, then the question of barriers to working together comes up immediately. Being able to cross the barriers of different platforms, across firewalls and locations is critical."
The UI in Buzzword has a number of unique features, such as being in a constant state of accurate print preview. Word processors don't always accurately reflect how a document is printed but Larson said Buzzword will reflect the document's output on screen at all times.
It will also have a change history, so you can go back and load a document from several revisions back and sort changes by persons working on the document. They can be published live on the Internet for all to read and/or edit.