Alright, this one is a little hard to process: Macromedia just got bought by Adobe in a deal worth $3.4 billion in stock. It’s hard to say that without saying it again: Adobe just bought Macromedia. (asssuming shareholders and regulators approve etc. etc.)
Adobe started off making fantastic products for print designers, and has spent the past 7 or 8 years trying to get a foothold on the web. Unsuccessfully, I’d add, as the last time anyone used an Adobe product to generate actual production-ready HTML code would have been some time before the Euro went into wide circulation. Discounting the production work that happens in Photoshop/Illustrator, there are no stand-out Adobe web development tools. LiveMotion? Dead and gone. GoLive? GoLifeSupport. ImageReady? Well, it’s been a while since I’ve personally hit the little button at the bottom of my Photoshop toolbar, but at least that one gets used by other designers from time to time. (Okay, and my GoLive crack was a cheap shot too, but I couldn’t resist.)
Macromedia, on the other hand, has been the young-and-hip counterpart, building a product line almost exclusively focused on the web. Dreamweaver, Flash, Contribute, Fireworks, ColdFusion, need I go on? Except in a business sense, they’ve only been mildly successful, evidenced by the fact that they don’t totally own the market they’re in.
So now the two join forces. Why? Oh, I think Flash might have something to do with it. Competition over the formats and tools of tomorrow’s rich applications is heating up, and Adobe didn’t have a foot in the door until today. Sure, they’ve been big on SVG all along, if perhaps by default, but there are a lot of reasons why SVG is probably not going to be the lingua franca of the future application space. Low implementation rates, a hazy future, and very little developer interest. (Although, interestingly, SVG has a mobile version which is apparently gathering a lot of steam in the handheld space.)
Flash, on the other hand, is a viable option here and now. It has the potential and the developer base to build tomorrow’s applications. A couple of questions naturally follow: what will become of Adobe’s long-standing commitment to SVG, now that Flash is in the fold? Since SWF is an ‘open’ format and Macromedia makes money on the player anyway, would there be a business case in transitioning SWF to SVG?
But this is also where the fear, uncertainty and doubt kicks in. If Adobe is gearing up for a battle in the rich application space, what happens if they lose? They’re not exactly known for their coding tools at the moment; presumably, key Macromedia teams will be in charge of ensuring the design tools work well with the development tools. From a technical standpoint, a lot remains to be proven. From a competition standpoint, well… as best as I can tell, their main competition is a stable of open source technologies, and Microsoft. That’s almost a rigged game, where a likely outcome for Adobe is a thorough trampling by both other interests. Remember how Microsoft sent a rep to promote their latest and greatest to a crowd of Flash developers?
The combined Macromedia and Adobe stable of design software is industry standard; with this buyout, Adobe essentially has a monopoly over the design world. (Quark aside. Very far aside.) So they’ll always have that to fall back on. But investors like growth. If the growth stops, or slows, or does anything short of grow, investors react. This particular method of growth is risky, given the competition, and if it fails to materialize, then what? Another buyout? By whom…?
And this is just one particular line of inquiry of many. There are hundreds of other questions which have been asked elsewhere, regarding product lines and feature merging and PDF and and and. Over time, we’ll get the answers. Here’s hoping this move pays off.