Will anyone use AdobeTables?

by admin on June 16, 2009

in Innovation

I’ve taken a good poke about in Adobe Tables, Adobe’s Flash based spreadsheet which was announced yesterday. The highlights from the release:

  • All users can add data simultaneously – solving one of the biggest problems with shared worksheets. All data is always in up-to-date for everyone.
  • Presence – lets you know who else is working on the table and where they are working
  • Private and common views – allows the team to work together, but see the information that is important each person. Private views let you see information that is important to you, without disturbing others working on the sheet.
  • Filtering is real time so you can play with the data and adjust your filter in real time, without having to open a dialog box for every change.
  • Sorting – quick, simple and always includes all of the data

The collaboration elements are interesting and form the centrepiece of Adobe’s strategy with this product. Adobe has introduced the idea of Common and Private views. It solves the problem of following the action when multiple people are amending a spreadsheet. However, I would not normally expect people to collaborate on spreadsheets without another form of communication being used concurrently. Whether that was IM or Skype I would expect collaborators to work together. So – is this useful? I guess so in some scenarios but I’m not convinced it’s a deal maker.

However, I just can’t see anyone using this in earnest. Flash apps often look sexy but they’re often horribly slow. This first release is incredibly basic so even though there is nifty sort capability the number of functions is limited. In a world where attention is in such short supply, I can’t see this catching the all important accounting market for some time to come.

If that wasn’t bad enough, it’s pricing is eye wateringly high for the very small businesses with maybe a couple of collaborators plus an accountant. According to Josh Lowensohn at CNet:

These can be purchased on a monthly or yearly basis and cost $14.99 or $39 a month, or $149 or $390 a year respectively.

The “premium basic” plan allows for 10 PDF conversions per month, as well as up to five meeting participants though Adobe’s ConnectNow tool. The “premium plus” plan dials that up to unlimited PDF conversions, and meetings with up to 20 users. Both premium plans also gain phone and Web support. In comparison, free users will only be able to convert five PDFs, and connect with two people at once in ConnectNow, which is just one less connection than users were able to have during Acrobat’s beta period.

I use Adobe Connect on certain scheduled meetings and I can tell you that apart from the chat – it’s not that great. From a presenter’s perspective it seem to take a lot controlling and I invariably end up having to dial-in to calls rather than trusting to the system to call me back. It hasn’t happened successfully yet. In response to a critique on the cost issue written by Krishnan Subramanian at Cloud Ave, Adobe pointed out:

We consider our prices to be very competitive given the quality of the products versus competitors, our focus on more intensive business use, and the fact that most people with less intensive collaboration needs will be quite happy with the free version. In other words, these are not per seat prices, they are need-based prices. I’m considering writing a blog posting about the differences between traditional seat based pricing and what we are doing with Acrobat.com. In short, if you need it and you find it valuable, then you pay for what you need. And if you don’t, you don’t, but you can still participate in collaborative work with others…for free.

Great – except I don’t see how Adobe is going to spark serious interest in this product when it has little beyond basic formulae. Having functionality that Excel doesn’t have such as collaboration is not enough. It’s also getting to be a crowded marketplace with Zoho, Google, SocialText and others looking to find ways of prying your attention away from Microsoft. Good luck with that one Adobe but I think you’ve a ways to go. Pivot tables is where I’d start.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Phil Hodgen June 16, 2009 at 7:42 am

Adobe seems stuck on pricing. Listen to that "need" language. Makes me puke. It is code word for "what's the maximum we can extract out of you?" They're thinking of themselves and their revenue stream, not their value to the customer.

I will bet that a year hence they'll be road kill because of the pricing, no matter what they think of the fabulosity of their technology. Meanwhile I will be blasting away in Google Apps, which is quite good enough. Oh. Did I mention that it is free?

Martyn June 16, 2009 at 10:07 am

Dennis

Yep, you are right, Pivot tables are the way to start. Been playing with Zoho reports – very nice indeed.

M

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