Very difficult to sum up (news is here). I was going to do a quick Q&A as I normally would on such an announcement, but as I began to cycle through potential questions it was immediately apparent that there can be no “quick take” on this sort of deal. So I did what I tend to do in such cases: put it off a few days and thought it over.
Unfortunately, my time of reflection didn’t exactly yield that “moment of clarity.” Inarguably, the merger is rife with permutations, angles and possibilities. I could build the “good for both parties” case, or I could argue that merger issues will serve as a distraction for multiple product lines – product lines facing new and emerging threats. Also jeopardizing my ability to judge this deal effectively is the fact that I don’t track or cover a few of the major product lines from both vendors, such as Photoshop.
However you look at the deal, though, it’s clear that the combined entity has a considerable footprint from which to operate. Between Flash and PDF, Macrobe (no that’s not the official name 😉 is on just about every machine out there. Whatever you may think of the individual platforms, that’s real estate that most ISVs would kill for. Contrast that with the Java or even .NET footprints, and you get the idea that in terms of volume, the Flash/PDF platforms are well set audience-wise.
Audience in and of itself, of course, guarantees nothing. Execution challenges are now front and center, because while the merger may be designed as a preemptive strike against Longhorn, it may well be that the addition of a competitive presentation layer and app-dev technology to the Adobe portfolio has partners such as IBM feeling less sanguine. Co-opetition being the name of the game, however, one might reasonably expect the partner ramifications to be less than dramatic, at least in the short term.
But the execution is still a major question mark for me, as in where do they head now? Tim Bray breaks down it down as print media for Adobe, web media for Macromedia, and as a shorthand version I think that’s fair. But Adobe also has a massive presence in verticals such as government and financial services from the IT side, while Macromedia has footholds in entertainment and new media. In theory, that spells synergistic possibilities. Depending on execution, however, that may mean culture and sales clashes.
I’ve seen a bunch of speculation about the possibilities for Flash/PDF cross-pollination – Flash will become PDF’d, and PDF Flashed. Having suffered through performance issues with both (anybody else cringe when they see “PDF warning”?), I shudder at the thought.
So in a nutshell, I don’t have a succinct quotable response to the merger, other than “interesting.” I’m not as pessimistic on the merger as some (Flickr really convinced me that Flash may have a place in next gen interfaces, Google’s Ajax wizardry notwithstanding), but I certainly think there are challenges ahead.
Either way, I’m going to be watching closely.
Update: Kottke’s got a great roundup of varying reactions from the blogosphere.