Adobe Plus Macromedia: What’s It Mean?

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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.


  1. If they are trying to make preemptive strike against Longhorn, I think they are fighting the wrong battle. The real competition in the next 5 years will be firefox, not Longhorn. These companies are all going to be fighting over a smaller and smaller market.

    What I think is going to happen is a lot of products will be combined and/or dropped, and there will be a lot of lay offs. They will be so distracted doing this that they will forget all about innovation, and fall into the classic mode of "cuttings costs." That never works in technology.

    This has been Chizen's model. When was the last time you tried a product adobe put out and thought, "Wow that's cool"? Yea it has been a long time for me as well.

  2. It wreaks of monopoly and I can't believe the FTC is going to allow this merger to go through. There are no two companies that have so much footprint on the Web as these two, and letting them join basically locks out any other party from the table. Even the Microsoft is beholdent to Flash & PDF for dissemination of all multimedia materials with the exception of streaming media.

  3. Christopher: excellent comment, but i don't know that firefox is the real battle. i think Macrobe's future role is going to be in authoring and platform extension, rather than as "the" platform as is the case with FF. food for thought there, though.

    JP: i certainly echo the concerns, but i think it would be difficult if not impossible to block the deal for antitrust reasons. Google's a shining example of the ability to route around – effectively – entrenched monopolistic positions. could someone state positively that the flash/pdf beachhead was really that unassailble? i have a tough time seeing it.

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