Adobe as Data Integration Player

acrobat 7 screen
Adobe has consistently improved its cross platform document container and archive – Acrobat PDF. Acrobat PDFs major attraction is the fact that it is completely self contained. PDFs carry along all the fonts, stylings, images, and an engine necessary to not only render for display but also print the contained documents with very high fidelity on a broad range of hardware/OS platforms. For example the free Adobe reader supports all versions of Windows from 3.1 (PDF 3.01) to XP (PDF 7.0), all versions of Mac from Mac 68000 (PDF 3.01) to MacOS 10.3 (PDF 7.0). But equally important is the cross platform reach of Acrobat to Linux (PDF 5.01), Solaris (PDF 5.01), IBM/AIX (PDF 5.01), HP/UX (PDF 5.01), OS/2 (PDF 3.01) plus specialized versions for PalmOS, SymbianOS and PocketPC. I was a little surprised to see that on Linux, Solaris, and HP/UX Adobe has fallen 2 versions behind. In comparison Macromedias Flash Player is upto the latest version 7 on all of those except HP/UX where Flash is one version behind. But still, for cross platform delivery, display and
printing of documents, Acrobat PDF remains the major player. And the last two versions have considerably enhanced PDFs capabilities.

PDF: More Than Document Viewing

Over the past two versions of Acrobat, Adobe has been adding considerably to the features of the PDF format in three key areas. First, the security features have been critically improved going well past encryption and passwords and now allowing a range of access control features plus digital signatures. For example, some users can read but not comment or edit a document. And the number of times a document can be opened for reading can be controlled.

The second major improvement, has been the addition of work team features. This flows out of the security access features. Now members of a team can not only view a PDF but also add their own comments, annotations, and suggested corrections (see the screenshot above). They can then apply a secure “Reviewed” stamp and forward or return the document. The document originator then may have a local PDF Organizer that allows summarizing the comments including helping to make changes to the appropriate documents. Finally, the new Version of Acrobat simplifies binding together into a single file documents from multiple sources including adding the originals as attachments.

The third major enhancement to PDF is to add data entry forms to PDF files. This follows from Adobes acquisitions in the forms management field such as JetStream in the past few years. It is also a natural addition to the workflow and adhoc approval capabilities described just above. Adobe now has a Visual Designer for forms creation, a central Forms and Security server, and a new XML format for storing, retrieving and exchanging forms data in appropriately developed PDF files. Quietly, Adobe has become a major player in the BPM-Business Process Management market without establishing a high end messaging or Web Services framework – although both capabilities are on the drawing boards or out in the field. For more details, see the review on Acrobat 7 on the parent site of this weblog.

Summary

This is another example of how convergence is rapidly evolving around data integration and interoperability. As vendors from diverse fields such as BI-Business Intelligence with its data warehousing and BAM-Business Activity Monitoring capabilities; EAI/EII-Enterprise Application/Information Integration with its savvy for organizing data by way of enterprise metadata and business rules repositories plus hugely scalable data movement engines,; and BPM-Business Process Management tools that help to manage data and workflows within and across organizations – all of these vendors start to deliver more common characteristics and features in their tools and processes as increasing parts of their functionality converge. Literally, data integration and program interoperability has become ground zero for the Convergence Imperative. And Adobe will be a player.

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