adobe + macromedia = what, exactly?

About Adobe - Adobe to acquire Macromedia: Adobe Systems Incorporated has announced a definitive agreement to acquire Macromedia in an all-stock transaction valued at approximately $3.4 billion.

So, what does this mean? Well, up to this point there were two serious players in the web production arena: Macromedia and Adobe. Microsoft's products are all but irrelevant for interface design; their foothold is in application development (ASP, .NET, Java) and associated servers.

Adobe had the all-conquering Photoshop and ubiquitous PDF format; along with Illustrator and Acrobat (not to mention its print powerhouse PageMaker/InDesign). Macromedia had the all-conquering Dreamweaver and ubiquitous Flash format (including Flash Paper, Breeze and RoboDemo); along with Fireworks and Freehand. Macromedia also had Cold Fusion, although it's popularity has been waning.

So what was the state of play?

  • Macromedia was unlikely to ever pip Photoshop for popularity; no matter how popular Fireworks got it didn't seem to make a serious impression.
  • Adobe was unlikely to ever pip Dreamweaver for popularity - GoLive just doesn't cut it in comparison.
  • Adobe and Macromedia both have a well-established encapsulated content format - PDF and Flash, respectively. Despite Adobe's huge advantage with PDF's deep establishment, Macromedia was starting to challenge with Flash Paper - faster load times, ability to embed within a page, smaller download, etc.
  • Both companies had a wide range of lesser-known products catering to specific markets, including several directly competing products.
  • Both companies had investments in new/emerging technologies, eg. they are both involved to some degree in investigating SVG.
  • Both companies have workflow products, although neither has a world-beater.
  • Both companies have server-based products, although again neither is super-strong in these areas.

Now what? Well, a read through the acquisition FAQ (PDF, of course) makes for interesting reading - particularly if you attempt to cut through the marketing-speak (you get a "synergy" and a couple of "vision"s in the first couple of paragraphs alone). Reading between the lines:

  • Adobe is very clearly taking over Macromedia, it's not a merger and Adobe will be calling the shots.
  • They won't disclose who proposed the idea, suggesting it wasn't as amiable as they're saying in public.
  • "Macromedia" will not exist after the takeover is complete, although some product names will stay the same to maximise their value to Adobe.
  • Unsurprisingly, low-profit products (and associated staff) are going to get the chop.
  • They are somehow planning to use Flash and PDF together. Possibly turning the Flash plugin into a PDF reader, since Acrobat 's load times are one of its bugbears.
  • Macromedia's habit of running blogs is likely to end after the takeover; Adobe likes communicating with customers, but mostly via marketing droids or directly in person. Blogging is a bit... common for Adobe's general image.

One interesting quote: Post closing, we believe the industry will remain as dynamic and competitive as it is today. I'm not sure exactly what the competition is going to be..!

So what can we expect? The concern for Macromedia users would have to be that Adobe built its empire on print, whereas Macromedia has always been an electronic media company. This is a fundamental difference which should not be underestimated. The web is not print, so a print mindset is lethal if you're trying to build products for web production.

The concern for users either way is that their favourite product may not be continued; or, more generally, what will happen to various products:

  • Does Adobe really want to continue Flash as it is now, or do they really just want to turn it into a lighter, faster PDF reader?
  • For that matter, do they really want to continue any Flash-based product? Adobe clearly wants PDF to be the format for all things - they seem to think there's nothing it can't do (apart from download quickly, perhaps).
  • Does Adobe really want to continue Fireworks or Freehand, which compete directly with two of its flagship products?
  • Does Adobe really want to continue with Cold Fusion? They have no serious background in web applications platforms and Cold Fusion is on the outer in many sectors. Do they want to compete with more popular and/or free solutions?

It's going to be interesting to see how this shakes out. We now truly have the Microsoft of the web production world.

Not to mention my freebie Macromedia backpack is now "retro".

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