There will be some new experiments with subscription fees for online services, after the last few years when it seemed everything online would always be free or could be financed by online advertising. Adobe has just turned on “premium” subscriptions for Acrobat.com, its portal for file sharing and collaboration. Here’s what I wrote about Acrobat.com when it first appeared last year.
It’s still possible to use basic Acrobat.com services for free – store PDF and Office files online and share them, convert a limited number of files each month to PDF format, and use Adobe ConnectNow for online meetings. Premium subscriptions (for a hefty $14.99 or $39/month) increase the number of files that can be converted and the number of meeting participants, plus a few other things. There are a few more details about the subscription plans and the reasoning behind them in this article.
At the moment the idea seems slightly daft. Who would pay for this? Free alternatives are easy to come by, and Acrobat.com’s interface continues to be a bit baffling. It’s obviously elegant and streamlined and very attractive. It’s only when you try to use it that it becomes clear that the way it’s organized doesn’t really make much sense.
In particular, it’s not as important as before to have a way to create PDFs if Acrobat isn’t installed. Office 2007 users have the built-in ability to create a PDF from any Office document after installing Office 2007 Service Pack 2.
Perhaps the real importance of Adobe’s move is that it begins to soften us up for the big move to subscription-based online file services that will happen when Microsoft releases the next version of Office. When Office 2010 arrives in the first half of next year, it will include deep hooks into files stored online to make them as accessible as local files, plus web-based versions of Word, Excel, and some of the other programs, with monthly subscriptions to turn off advertising and turn on all the features. Here’s more information about what to expect from the next version of Office.