Adobe launches AI tool meant to let customers ‘have a conversation with’ PDF documents, as companies look to roll out add-ons to existing product lines

If you have a question about a document, who better to answer it than the document itself?

That’s the thinking behind Acrobat AI Assistant, a new tool released by Adobe Monday. For a $4.99 monthly add-on fee, most Adobe Acrobat customers will reportedly be able to ask the tool questions about complicated documents and get responses back based on their contents. The company said that the type of documents that can be queried by the AI tool can range from study guides to tax documents.

Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen told CNBC in February that the assistant will help make documents more comprehensible and accessible.

“Just imagine you’ve opened a 100-page document. You want to understand the summary, you want to have a conversation with it, you want to ask questions,” Narayen said. “You want to correlate that with other documents that you might have as well as the entire information that you have in your enterprise.”

Adobe Acrobat is part of the company’s document cloud services, which brought in $2.6 billion in 2023, according to its most recent 10-K filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The document cloud business, along with its Creative Cloud segment, made up 73% of the company’s total revenue, or about $14.2 billion, in 2023.

Adobe also on Monday launched a free mobile version of the AI assistant in beta where customers can ask it questions via voice commands. It is also available via extensions on browsers such as Microsoft Edge and Google Chrome. The $4.99 monthly fee is an “early access” rate, the company said, meaning it could rise in the future.

AI assistants exploded in popularity following the launch of OpenAI’s ChatGPT in 2022. The software programs use artificial intelligence to give human-like responses to questions on both websites and apps. The launch of Adobe’s AI assistant follows similar moves by other tech companies to incorporate AI-based chatbots in their technology. Microsoft’s Bing was one of the first to launch an AI chatbot for its browser, but since then, companies such as Meta and Amazon have followed suit. 

While some have reportedly enhanced productivity and even replaced some workers, other AI-based chatbots have gone off the rails. 

Still, the trend of incorporating AI assistants into existing products is not likely to slow down soon, said Yusuf Khan, the head of data science and AI at Constellation, a SaaS company that works with artificial intelligence and data technology. For companies with lots of proprietary data, it may be obvious to try to extract some value by making it accessible to customers through an AI assistant, Khan said.

“We’re slowly moving away from a search-based approach, to a chat-based approach,” he added.

Still, Khan cautioned that companies need to consider their customer needs and how they would benefit from an AI assistant.

“Yes, you can fit it into every industry, but the question is, should you fit it into every industry,” Khan said.

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