Acrobat Evangelist talks XML, PDF and competition

p>As Developer Evangelist in the Intelligent Documents Business Unit, Lori DeFurio is responsible for evangelizing Adobe to the company’s vast developer community, with a specific focus on advancing the Portable Document Format. With the launch of Adobe’s Intelligent Document Platform, her portfolio has expanded to include the use of PDF in conjunction with XML to streamline data exchange in the enterprise document workflow. Considering her hectic international speaking schedule, Lori is one very busy woman who just got even busier!

‘I’d like to see a consortium formed of partners, developers and industry gurus, if you will. They would help to establish how I decide what constitutes a good PDF…’

Lori DeFurio, Developer Evangelist, Intelligent Documents Business Unit, Adobe

With Microsoft’s InfoPath, Macromedia’s Flashpaper, AutoDesk’s DWF and even the W3C’s SVG all regarded by some as competitors to PDF, it is increasingly beginning to look as though PDF will be contending not with a single ‘Überformat’, but a series of specialized systems, each intended for a precise set of usage scenarios.

I recently managed to track her down to chat about potential threats to the PDF format, Adobe’s product pipeline, and her aspirations for both the PDF format itself and the thriving community it has spawned. The full text of the interview follows.

DAN SHEA, Planet PDF Associate Editor: In the past, XML and PDF have been seen as mutually exclusive, but successive versions of PDF and Acrobat have seen increasing levels of integration between the two: (tagged PDF, XFDF). Do you see that trend continuing, and if so, how?

LORI DEFURIO, Developer Evangelist, Intelligent Documents Business Unit, Adobe: Absolutely! One of the things that’s coming with Adobe Designer, which we’ve just launched, and the suite of server-based products that you will be seeing from Adobe later this year, is that it’s all based on an XML architecture. What we really see as a vision is that people and computers are exchanging all this information in an XML format. You want XML in your back-end systems and you want to talk XML with your customers as well as your partners.

However, there is a human interface many times along the way: maybe you’re in the middle of a purchase order that’s going through an XML workflow, but there’s some point where an exception occurs, and there needs to be a human interaction with the document. At that point in time, the interaction would be conducted via a PDF interface because that’s a comfort zone for people; it’s the presentation layer that people are comfortable with. Once that was complete, the XML would be put back into the workflow and continue on. You’ll see that moving forward, XML forms the infrastructure to move and process the data, whereas PDF will provide the intuitive visual interface for people to work with it.

SHEA: Does Adobe have any plans with respect to the collection of forms data on mobile devices?

DEFURIO: Great question, Dan! So, moving forward, we will be introducing a new version of the Reader on PocketPC, which will enable you to fill and submit forms from a mobile device. You’ll be able to create these form templates in Designer — getting the full XML forms capability — fill them out and submit them again, getting XML data that can fit back in to your XML back-end workflows.

SHEA: Back in mid-February, Adobe announced a new enterprise Digital Rights Management (DRM) product called Policy Server. Can you please tell me a little more about Adobe’s goals and aims with this release?

DEFURIO: One of the key things moving forward at Adobe really is document control and security — very key, especially in the PDF space. Adobe Policy Server will be a tool that enables you to add protection rights to a PDF document such that it will enable you to set policy on the document. It allows you to decide whether it will time out, the number of prints allowed, user rights etc., and it will allow you to authenticate back to initially LDAP, but we’re working with many partners in that space to enable different models as well.

SHEA: Can you tell me about some of Policy Server’s main features?

DEFURIO: The very exciting thing about Policy Server is the idea of being able to manage the rights once the document is out there. If you look at the eBook or the eContent models today, typically you set the rights on a document, and once it’s left your control, that is the set of policies for the life of the document.

With Policy Server, you would have the ability to revoke or revise rights on that document at will. There will be a web interface to that, so again, someone anywhere can get to the policy server through a web interface, go in and revoke or modify rights as necessary. The third important component to the Policy Server really is auditing. So you would be able to track all the information about that document; who attempted to open it, who did open it, who had access to it, and that audit trail is maintained along with the rights and the policies.

SHEA: What is the rough pricing model?

DEFURIO: OK, pricing model for Policy Server. That’s not been set yet, we just announced the technology in February, we’re looking for partners to help integrate it with us, and there’s just no published or announced pricing models at this time.

SHEA: Adobe Document Server With Reader Extensions was designed to allow document — and in particular forms — providers to enable Acrobat-like functionality on a per-document basis rather than a per-seat basis. There was a lot of negative feedback in response to Adobe’s original pricing model in user forums, and potential confusion with the Adobe Document Server product. What’s changed under the new licensing scheme?

DEFURIO: First up, Adobe Document Server With Reader Extensions, you may notice on Adobe.com, is now called Adobe Reader Extensions Server so as not to confuse it too much with Document Server. We’ve tried to give it a name that’s a little more about what it really does, which is reader extensions. Initially, when it first was announced, there was a very steep, entry level price that was very difficult for many people to look at.

What I like to think of it now is that there’s two pricing models. One is based on the ‘known user’, where you’re working with an organization in which you can identify all the associated users; you’re in a workgroup or you can identify all the readers. That pricing model is very similar to the per seat cost of Acrobat Approval, which you may remember was available in the Acrobat 5 timeframe. That, I belive, was priced US$39. This is a little bit more — US$60 a seat, with a minimum of 250 users from memory — but again, it’s based on Acrobat 6 technology, so it allows you to do XML forms and take advantage of other enhanced features in version 6.

The other pricing model is the ‘unknown user’. It’s similar to the familiar ‘Government-to-Citizen’ type implementation or, ‘I’d like to create a document or a form that I want to post on the internet where it could be accessed by anyone worldwide that might be associated with it’, and that pricing model is calculated on a per-form basis. Under this scheme, you need to buy those forms in 10-packs at the first level, and it’s approximately $2,000 per form. For an organization that has many, many, many forms, there is going to be a point at which they will not want to purchase 10-packs, but would prefer to go to an unlimited version of that product. That is going to have a significantly higher ticket price, but again, for organizations — particularly government to citizen — they see a huge benefit in that because they are able to deploy information to their end-users, their citizens, without additional cost or software to them. And they’re willing to incur that cost.

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About the Author: Dan Shea

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