Adobe's trial balloon

Earlier this month I brokered a dialogue between Kirk Holbrook, an Acrobat developer who'd read my Acrobat and InfoPath column, and Adobe executive Chuck Myers, whom I'd interviewed for the column. Apparently Chuck's response to Kirk made some news in the PDF community:

As we reported from last fall's PDF Conference in Las Vegas, there was a mix of confusion and consternation regarding the new Reader Extensions technology and its implications, representing a change in direction for Adobe -- pushing the cost from the end user to the forms creator/publisher. And the referenced cost was significant, putting the solution well out of the budget for all but the largest companies, organizations and agencies -- and denying the new forms-enabling capabilities to the vast number of small- to mid-size Acrobat and PDF users.

In subsequent discussions with Adobe, there were hints that the initially announced pricing structure was something of a trial balloon -- and based on some of the reaction -- likely to be revised. But no public announcement by Adobe of any such revision followed.

Surprisingly, details of a change in the pricing structure emerged recently in a public response by Adobe's Chuck Myers to a Weblog item posted by InfoWorld's Jon Udell. Previously Udell had posted an item titled "Acrobat and InfoPath," which triggered a response and some questions from one of his readers. Adobe's Myers responded, addressing the concerns and noting that Adobe had implemented a revised pricing model for its Document Server for Reader Extensions. [Planet PDF]

The author of the Planet PDF article, Kurt Foss, goes on to say that he has "confirmed this week with Adobe PR staff what the official purchasing options are for ADSFRE," and he concludes:

This revision won't exactly qualify as a fire sale, and seems doubtful to bring the technology much closer to reality for small- to mid-size customers. The minimum spend is still in the $60K-plus range. Time will tell if this second trial balloon will float or burst.

I agree with that analysis. The ability to gather structured data -- from anyone, anywhere -- is one of the fundamental enablers of the business web. In different and complementary ways, Acrobat and InfoPath are superior instruments for the task, but if they can't get within shouting distance of ubiquity then it won't matter. Because the browser, contrary to popular opinion, is not standing still. Well, at least the new standard-bearer, Mozilla, isn't. It has the a lot of the raw ingredients and serious momentum. Funding's an issue now but if Mitch Kapor can score $2.75 million in grants for OSAF, then maybe can pull a rabbit out of its hat too.

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