Webmonkey Says, Let Adobe Be

April 20, 2005

By Michael Calore
Wired News

Reprinted from Wired News,1367,67275,00.html?tw=wn_tophead_3

There was some big news at the water cooler Monday. You may have heard the designers and the web geeks chatting about it. Adobe Systems is acquiring Macromedia, and in case you were wondering, we're talking about some pretty big fish in a pretty big pond.

Macromedia is the creator of Dreamweaver, the WYSIWYG web page creation tool, and Flash, the web motion graphics application. Adobe is the company that gave us Photoshop, the leading digital imaging application, and Acrobat, with its Portable Document Format that has become the standard on the web for creating and sharing electronic documents.

This wasn't just big news in the software industry, or simply blog fodder for web geeks and designers. In fact, the entire creative community was rocked by the announcement, and musings among the digerati ran the gamut from enthusiastic optimism to head-shaking denial. Some see it as a positive step that will only expedite feature development within both companies' major applications. Others see it as a giant step backward in an industry that's recently seen too many mergers and too little competition.

Both sides have a point, but I'd argue that it's mostly a good thing.

With the merger, Adobe is set to become an absolute powerhouse in the design and publishing industry. There was very little product overlap between the two companies to begin with. Adobe has long been the gold standard for document publishing and graphics while Macromedia has concentrated mostly on multimedia, web technology and content development for mobile devices. Sure, Adobe also has a WYSIWYG web editor called GoLive, but Macromedia's Dreamweaver is the stronger application and has better market share. The same goes for Macromedia's Flash. Flash is unrivaled in the motion graphics realm, and Adobe has tried in the past to knock out Flash, only to fail.

And now, by picking up the remaining applications in the Macromedia stable, Adobe has just bought its way into every niche in the design market. Digital imaging, motion graphics, desktop publishing, content management, presentations, documents, video editing, audio production, type. You name it, the new Adobe's got a program that does it.

The trend in the publishing and design industry is the application suite -- a group of applications that can be purchased and installed together, providing interoperability and end-to-end functionality. Provided that Adobe continues with the development of the application suite, which it should most definitely do, the company then can create a seamless web of development tools that cover every step of the creative process.

Just think of it. Create a Flash animation using video you've edited in Premiere Pro, graphics elements you've created in Illustrator, and images you've prepared in Photoshop. Add some music you tracked using Audition, then drop it into a web page you've created using ColdFusion and Dreamweaver. Everyone plays nice together and everything works the way it should.

Adobe is keeping mum about what the future holds for the various products now under its care, but you can bet that there will be total cross-functionality once the company irons the kinks out between all of the applications. Granted, that could take a year or longer, but it's going to be an awesome party when it happens.

There are those who would say that this merger has more to do with Adobe eliminating its main competitor than it does with making consumers happy. There is concern, of course, that the lack of competition will cause the development of key applications to stagnate.

An argument against that concern is the network of developers and customers that Macromedia brings to the table. Macromedia hosts one of the most active development communities on the web, with members contributing tutorials, support and a knowledge base. The Macromedia Developer Center is also the place to find plug-ins, templates and bits of code that add functionality to extensible applications like Dreamweaver and ColdFusion.

Also, Adobe isn't quite alone in the playing field just yet. First of all, the next big frontier in content development -- wireless and mobile devices -- is just beginning to be explored. Macromedia has already thought up some innovative tools for developing content for handhelds, such as Flash Lite, but competition in the wireless field is still strong.

Secondly, Microsoft is rumored to be incorporating some robust digital imaging and personal web publishing tools into the next version of Windows, which is due next year. Granted, professional designers will most likely stick with Photoshop and Dreamweaver, but Adobe will have to come up with some new ideas -- and keep prices down -- in order to win over new customers who don't have too much interest in an expensive, pro-level imaging application full of bells and whistles.

There are also plenty of observers who have voiced fears about a monopoly. It's true, Adobe is now a sort of one-stop shop for all of your web, graphics and publishing needs. There have always been alternatives to Flash and Photoshop, and there probably always will be. But only time will tell if any of the alternatives will stand up to the new giant.

The merger makes sense for both Macromedia and Adobe. Both companies have been busy selling their products to the same people for years. While those customers may see a little less variety, they will certainly see a lot more compatibility. The larger company will also have more resources, allowing it to branch into new areas more quickly and easily.

The success of the merger relies on how quickly Adobe can get all of the applications now under its umbrella talking to one another and working together. Once that happens, we'll have a pretty clear picture of whether or not this venture was a good idea.

Reprinted from Wired News,1367,67275,00.html?tw=wn_tophead_3


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