updated 10/25/2004 1:27:50 PM ET 2004-10-25T17:27:50

Stepping up the heated battle of online search and services, Yahoo Inc. and Adobe Systems Inc. have joined forces to tap each others’ customers and put Web search features into Adobe’s popular Acrobat Reader software.

The broad strategic relationship to be announced Monday is Sunnyvale-based Yahoo’s latest maneuver against chief rivals Google Inc. and Microsoft Corp. in the fight to become the gateway of search and Web access on as many desktops as possible. (MSNBC is a Microsoft - NBC joint venture.)

For San Jose-based Adobe, the partnership will add online features to one of the software maker’s core products, Acrobat. The program is used by more than 500 million people and has become a common format for viewing documents over the Web and in e-mail attachments.

Under the deal, Adobe will first introduce a cobranded Yahoo browser toolbar that users can choose to install on their computers when prompted to download an update of Acrobat Reader. The toolbar — an increasingly popular method of online search engines to stay constantly visible on a user’s Internet browser — will feature links to Yahoo products and services as well as Adobe’s Web-based subscription service that lets people convert documents into the Adobe PDF file format.

‘The point of inspiration’
Later, the companies said, the toolbar will add features such as the ability to quickly convert Web-based content into Adobe PDF files. Yahoo search will also be built into a future version of the Acrobat Reader, allowing users to search for more information from within the document without going through the extra steps of launching a Web browser.

“We call it being available at the point of inspiration,” said Tim Cadogan, Yahoo’s vice president of search.

The products will further bridge the worlds of online and off-line content, said Pam Deziel, a director of product marketing for Adobe Acrobat.

That’s a goal Adobe has been trying to achieve recently in many of its products as it strives to expand its software tools beyond the off-line desktop publishing space into the powerful realm of the Internet.

Yahoo and its Internet rivals are headed in a similar multifaceted direction. Google, for instance, recently introduced software that lets users search for files stored on their computers.

‘Battleground’ of the future
“We’re seeing an Internet portal battleground toward the desktop, and Yahoo and Google in particular will be slugging it out over the next few years,” said Tim Hickernell, a vice president at market research firm Meta Group. “Yahoo is a winner here by picking up a distribution channel through Adobe.”

The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. Deziel said only certain elements regarding search features were exclusive to Yahoo, but she and Cadogan refused to give further details.

The partnership, which had been under discussion for several months, is wide-ranging. The two companies said they will look at how they can blend features of their other products as well.

“This is just a starting (point) for the integration between the two companies,” Cadogan said. “With a little creativity to think it through, we hope our partnership will help consumers find information and create information.”

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