Can Adobe's grip on the PDF market possibly be loosened? Nitro PDF is convinced it has a fighting chance with the revamped version of its PDF creation software, launched this week.

The headlining feature of Nitro PDF Professional (version 6.0) is the ability to convert PDFs into reliable Microsoft Word documents, something that is said to be extremely tricky to achieve when dealing with complex table-ridden documents.

The company also touts its faster PDF creation and file processing, a slicker interface, document management integration, and support for the barebones PDF/A standard, and a raft of minor tweaks that will make life easier for PDF creators the world over.

But the principle argument that has it winning friends in a more straitened age, is the simple one of cost.

There is no doubt that Nitro PDF CEO, Sam Chandler, has a case when he describes Acrobat as a "super-premium" product, retailing as it does at $449 for Acrobat Pro in the US, which translates into a hard-to-explain £511.75 ($831) in the UK.

"Egregious", said Chandler of this price point before mentioning that Nitro PDF recently won a large order from insurance company Swiss Re, which had previously used Acrobat across thousands of seats.

"In good times, businesses can justify paying a premium for a premium product," he said, but "companies such as Swiss Re are no longer prepared to pay a premium price."

The problem has been that Adobe has been able to charge high prices because it had no competition, he said. But customers now had a real choice of a rival product of the same quality. "Nitro does everything Acrobat does and then some," claimed Chandler.

The company is so convinced that it has the product to rival Acrobat that some months ago it moved its HQ from Melbourne, Australia, to San Francisco, in an attempt to access more investment capital, and tap a larger market more inclined to buy from a Silicon Valley company.

As good as Nitro PDF or any of a small clutch of other rivals might be as creation and editing tools, their long-term success in eating into Adobe's market share could hinge on having a free reader to push themselves at a new customer base. Chandler refused to be drawn on the issue, but identified worries over security as being a major weak spot for Adobe at the current time.

Adobe's reader is not universally loved, having suffered a slew of security vulnerabilities, thanks in large part to features such as Javascript support that were not around when it launched in 1994.

The program's erratic patching cycle has been another PR disaster after the company admitted quietly trying to patch holes earlier this year before starting a more regular, structured cycle only this month.

Some security researchers have even recommended using readers other than Acrobat in order to avoid the product's insecurity.

The other big battlefield could be online document creation and conversion, where Adobe's services remain in a beta state.

Nitro PDF Pro's security features remain mostly unchanged from the previous version, and include RSA encryption, password, copy and paste and print control, as well as incorporating digital signatures to verify a PDF's creator. The new version's overhauled interface did make it easier for non-experts to use certificates, Chandler indicated.

Nitro PDF Professional 6.0 is available from this week at a cost of $99 for a single licence, with volume discounts available.