Adobe and Macromedia

by Giles Turnbull

In their formal, none-too-readable-by-humans announcement about acquiring Macromedia, Adobe makes specific mention of "the complementary functionality of PDF and Flash".

What's that supposed to mean, do you think?

After all, for most people, PDF and Flash are two very different things, used in very different situations.

Most people think of PDF as a format for printed documents (that's if they think of PDF at all). The same people probably consider Flash a means of making web pages a little more animated. Of course both formats offer considerably more than just that, but those are the broadly accepted consumer views.

Where's the complementary functionality, then?

It's hard to think of it in terms of "PDF and Flash" as specified in that announcement. Easier, I think, to consider the acquisition in terms of complemantary business plans.

Both Adobe's and Macromedia's products (and each one sells several different products, much more than just PDF or Flash) are about creativity, about content.

As the global content industry changes shape, wrapping itself around the requirements of digital creation, publication and distribution, the opportunities for commercial gain in those areas are growing. Adobe was already in an excellent position in several areas such as print and online publishing, or digital imaging.

Macromedia's authoring and interactive media tools (Studio, Dreamweaver, Flash, Fireworks, Contribute, Director, ColdFusion - it's quite a list when you stop to think about it) gives Adobe a nice wide range of products for future development. More eggs, in more baskets; a wise move, even if, at 3.4 billion dollars, it sounds to us mere mortals like a very expensive one.

What's your take on Adobe's move?


2005-04-18 12:33:58
I wish, I wish
Yeah, but let's see if they build an OS X version of Fontographer.
2005-04-18 13:15:42
I was blissfully unaware of this until last week, but Macromedia has (had?) a PDF competitor called FlashPaper:
2005-04-18 13:59:40
pdf2swf - convert PDF files into SWF
SWF Tools is a collection of SWF manipulation and creation utilities written by Rainer Böhme and Matthias Kramm. It is released under the GPL.

PDF2SWF A PDF to SWF Converter. Generates one frame per page. Enables you to have fully formatted text, including tables, formulas etc. inside your Flash Movie. It's based on the xpdf PDF parser from Derek B. Noonburg.

2005-04-18 19:36:39
could be good, could be bad, I just don't know
Adobe has a pretty horrid track record of mergers. In the merger with Aldus way back, they got Pagemaker, which they slowly killed in favor of InDesign, creating market confusion that hampered the sale of both products. Freehand was spun off to Macromedia, and I guess its coming back now. Adobe bought GoLive Cyberstudio, and that product has kind of stagnated and lessened in importance with relation to Dreamweaver. I think the GoLive aquisition shows Adobe's problems when dealing with software development style products, and developer communities. Adobe also used to have a flash competitor called LiveMotion which they abandoned in Nov 2003. Macromedia is more of a developer company than a design company, although all their software has a strong design bent. I wonder how well Adobe will be able to integrate all this, considering that company's track record and culture.

I also wonder about Macromedia's reasons for selling. Were they given a really great offer? Did they see the company running out of steam and wanted to make those problems someone elses before it showed up in the stock price? Have some investors been wanting out?

If its sucessful, the combined company will be able to produce some amazing stuff. If its less than that, then its a great opportunity for some smaller players to sneak in and fill the weaknesses.

2005-04-19 09:08:30
could be good, could be bad, I just don't know
I find it interesting that you see Adobe as having killed off PageMaker. I think Adobe saw the product through its natural life cycle.

InDesign seeks to replace PageMaker for customers who want to enter the next tier of professional design and to compete with QuarkXpress.

I've talked with a number of design students who have recently graduated from design schools about these two products. They hate Quark and love InDesign. InDesign feels like an application made for today's print market. Quark feels like a product from the mid-1990's with some features badly hacked onto it. PageMaker is a quaint product from the late 1980's.

Adobe tried to place PageMaker in that market space with PageMaker 6.5 Plus. Adobe added templates and clipart in order to stay relevant.

I think Apple has rightly assessed the product space that PageMaker filled by releasing Pages. Pages allows users without genuine design experience produce great looking documents. Pages, however, won't ever replace InDesign in the professional print design market place.

The alternative is Microsoft Publisher which is just a horrible product.

LiveMotion was a great product. I bought LiveMotion 1.0 for $99 because I didn't want to have to learn ActionScript, it was more intuitive and cost less. LiveMotion never gained traction. Flash has such a huge community that supports it that LiveMotion didn't stand a chance. When I told people I was making swfs they wanted to swap native Flash files, but I couldn't. They also told me to download and try out freely available Flash files. I couldn't. While LiveMotion 2.0 made it possible to write ActionScript, ultimately people wouldn't switch from Flash to LiveMotion. I eventually gave up the ghost and switched to Flash even though its a difficult product to master. My guess, though I don't really know, is that Adobe made little if any profit from LiveMotion.

I think Adobe has made some great decisions and has tried out different products for different market spaces. Some of the products have lived out their life cycle. Some products continue to thrive and grow.

2005-04-19 10:43:10
could be good, could be bad, I just don't know
I agree InDesign has become a great product. But when first released, there was a general feeling of "what's this?". People were familiar with PageMaker, and instead of making that product better, they forked into a whole new product. I think part of the thinking was people weren't taking PageMaker seriously, but adding a 2nd product caused people to take neither seriously at first. All of this after they spent so much money on Aldus. It may have all worked out in the end many years later, but it still represents a missed opportunity at the time which helped Quark maintain their dominance longer. Pages is amazing and long overdue. FrameMaker is an other great product of theirs that has undergone some neglect.

LiveMotion, an other good program, never really did what it was supposed to in helping to push Adobe's SVG format. SVG, being based on XML, offers a whole lot more flexibility than Flash, but everyone has the Flash player, so it would be suicide not to support that format. Many open source projects have really embraced SVG and provide some great tools for working with it. I hope some greater harmony between Flash and SVG can come from this merger.

I'm Adobe skeptic. I think they are a great company that does amazing things in the long run, but there have been so many shorter term bumps in the road,. I think this merger will be bumpy, but five years from now everyone will have forgotten about that. I'm just afraid we might loose some good stuff in the process.

2005-04-19 17:49:51
could be good, could be bad, I just don't know
I think you summed up the initial reaction to InDesign really well. If I remember correctly, Adobe was originally going to charge for the 1.5 upgrade but later recanted when it realized that they made a mistake.

I think SVG has a lot of potential. I would love to do some work with SVG, but it lacks a solid content creation product for the average user.

I think your fear is well placed, but we may end up with a better products as Adobe brings mature and excellent web development tools into the fold.

2005-04-19 20:15:02
could be good, could be bad, I just don't know
What SVG also lacks is an installed base of renderers. It is hard to compete with Flash because everyone has the Flash player. Hopefully, with Opera 8 and Firefox 1.1 gaining some level of support for the format, that will begin to change.
2005-04-21 11:06:31
PDF and Flash are two very different things
> PDF and Flash are two very different things
> Where's the complementary functionality, then?

Both are built on/are/use 2D vector rendering engines. PDF (EPS, display postscript, etc) has typically been used for print based media and interface rendering (NeXT, Apple, etc). Flash's roots are more animation, web content and rich media. If the two can be combined (or work hand-in-hand) Adobe will have a single vector based rendering engine that can handle just about anything, and given that their CS line uses a common code base (so I'm told), it could be possible to introduce flash technology into their entire CS line. That would open up a world of possibilities.