Adobe and Microsoft: A Bad Match

A rumor started recently has Microsoft (MSFT) working on a deal to buy Adobe (ADBE) (see articles on Engadget, the Globe and Mail, and Barrons). So far, all people have seen is meetings between various senior executives, and discussions leaked by employees and consultants. Who would this deal help?

I don’t see it helping Microsoft much. They have a hard enough time trying to keep their organization moving forward. Adding an organization like Adobe will not be easy. While only about 1/10th the size of Microsoft in terms of employees, is still a big company to swallow. They have some overlapping technologies, the most notable being the overlap between Flash and Silverlight. It would give Microsoft one of the defacto standards for document sharing (PDF) to complement the other (Word format) that they already own. But Microsoft is trying too hard to be all things to all people, and has stumbled of late in many areas. None of these trip-ups, individually, is fatal or even all that harmful, but when added together, they are starting to look like a company that doesn’t know what to do with it’s disparate bits, and doesn’t know how to keep herding them in a useful direction. Picking up Adobe doesn’t help their mobile story, it adds little to their web presence, and puts the Creative Suite applications into a box with a different logo. Right now, Microsoft should be looking at selling off or shutting down pieces so they can concentrate on their core business, and not adding more to the growing pile.

I can see some attraction for Adobe, in that they may think they are getting the clout of Microsoft to continue to promote their products and technologies. The thing is, for some of the products, Microsoft won’t help much. Creative Suite is the leader in its space. Putting the CS tools in a Microsoft box won’t make them any more leaders than they already are. Flash dominates on websites, and all I can see is Microsoft making a mess of it, pushing people away from Flash faster than they are already moving now. Microsoft has a habit of taking infrastructure technology, doing about 75% of a job of it, then changing them minds and direction when something cooler comes along. As why we have COM, COM+, OLE, DCOM and .NET, and what it took for developers that moved from one to the next to the next. When VisualBasic and C++ wasn’t “good enough”, and Microsoft decided that they didn’t want to work with Java, they went ahead and added C#. To further push people to have to use development tools to enhance Excel and Word, Microsoft killed off VisualBasic for Applications (VBA), and now you need to get a copy of Visual Studio to do what could previously done right inside Excel and Word.

The benefit for the industry might be the death of technologies like Flash and Silverlight, and faster adoption of the media and other features in HTML5. I don’t see Microsoft doing a great job, simply because they are currently distracted with their Windows Mobile initiative, and I can see a Flash/Silverlight replacement getting caught up in a web of neglect and apathy while MS attends to their mobile business. Microsoft would hopefully not meddle with the Creative Suite family, but there is a risk they will get in there and mess it up, too.

Overall, I just don’t see the benefit for Microsoft on this, and any benefits for Adobe are questionable at best.

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