March 30, 2004 1:15 PM PST

Apple, Adobe drifting apart

They share an area code, a customer segment and a history dating back to the early days of personal computing. But Apple Computer and Adobe Systems, like many in long-term relationships, have seen the 20-years-and-counting bond between them run hot and cold.

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What's new:
The longstanding relationship between Adobe Systems and Apple Computer is showing strain lately from various competitive and business forces.

Bottom line:
Apple and Adobe were pioneers in developing the desktop publishing market, but with Windows gaining popularity among users there, Adobe increasingly is pushing its software to PCs.

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Right now, it's in a colder period. Signs of frost have been accumulating for the past couple of years, with Adobe dropping Macintosh support for several software products and introducing others as Microsoft Windows-only applications. At the same time, Apple has quietly pushed Adobe out of a few markets by selling its own applications or bundling them into its OS X operating system.

Analysts and customers say that while the two are likely to be close partners for many more years, the relationship has become more distant.

"They really needed each other 10 or 20 years ago; that's clearly less important now," said Jeffrey Tarter, the editor of software industry newsletter Softletter. "Windows has finally become adequate as a publishing platform," he said, meaning graphics professionals can switch to a cheaper platform than the Mac.

"Given the original relationship was intensely symbiotic, both for product and ownership and financing, the current relationship can only be characterized as arms-length," said Roland Dumas, an Adobe customer and the owner of San Mateo, Calif.-based management consulting service Roberts Information Services.

Adobe and Apple representatives declined to comment for this story.

Adobe CEO Bruce Chizen addressed the company's relationship with Apple in an interview last year: "Our relationship with Apple is a great one," he said. "My relationship with (Apple CEO) Steve Jobs continues to be extremely strong--we communicate on a regular basis. Where we compete, we've agreed to compete. Where we partner, we partner aggressively...At the end of the day, we both have a vested interest in doing what's right for the creative professional customer."

"Our relationship with Apple is like a relationship in any marriage, good or bad," Chizen added at the time. "It's an important relationship for both of us to maintain and make stronger, knowing that there are differences."

Those mounting differences include:
• Adobe dropping support for several Mac products, most recently its FrameMaker publishing software and most notably its Premiere video editing application, whose demise as a Mac application was attributed to strong competition from Apple's Final Cut programs.

• Several new Adobe products have been introduced in Windows-only versions. In the case of Atmosphere, a new 3D animation application, the decision to skip the Mac was attributed to a small pool of potential customers. In the case of Photoshop Album, a light-duty consumer photo application, a similar application was already built into OS X. With its Encore DVD-authoring package, Adobe again pointed to competition from an Apple video application.

• Adobe caused a stir among Apple devotees last year by republishing test results that showed certain Adobe applications running faster on Windows PCs than on Macs.

• Adobe, which could once be relied upon to turn up at any Apple gathering, has skipped several Macworld events in recent years.

Longstanding relationship
The Adobe-Apple relationship dates back to Adobe's origins in the early 1980s as the developer of PostScript, a font technology that made it possible to achieve attractive printed output from a PC. Apple latched onto the technology to promote desktop publishing, turning it into one of the key drivers for early Mac sales.

"At one point, they really were joined at the hip in terms of technology and even marketing," Tarter said. "Adobe made possible good laser printer output, and Apple produced a platform that's good for typography."

Since then, however, Windows has gradually become more capable as a publishing platform. It has drained off support from one of Apple's key customer bases, the "creative professionals" who work in graphic design, publishing and other visually demanding fields.

"It used to be that virtually the only platform the graphics artist used was Mac," Tarter said. "Now there's probably parity in terms of capabilities between Windows machines and Macs, and Adobe just naturally has started paying more attention to Microsoft and less to Apple. That's the primary reason I see for a drifting apart--it's numbers."

Other observers agreed. "With (Apple's) shrinking market share, it's a simple economic decision," said Burt Janz, a Mac user and the president of Nashua, N.H.-based computer services firm CCS New England. He questioned whether it was sensible for Adobe to sell an application in a market so small that sales are unlikely to cover development and support costs.

Other Adobe and Mac loyalists insist the companies are still on good terms and simply making prudent business decisions. Owensboro, Ky., illustrator Chad Hamlet noted that Adobe was an early supporter of OS X and has been one of the first to exploit new Mac hardware capabilities.

"I think Apple and Adobe's relationship has been the same, maybe even better than a few years ago," Martin said. "If you recall, Adobe was one of the first companies to have an optimized version of their software running on a (Mac) G5, using the 64-bit functionality of the G5 processors."

Los Angeles-based Mac user Chase Holden said the Adobe decisions to drop certain Mac products have been prudent reactions to business factors beyond Apple's control. He cited the FrameMaker boot as an example.

"Adobe made the logical decision" to try to shift FrameMaker users to the superior InDesign product, which does run on Mac, he said. "The (publishing software) software market is simply saturated," so Adobe didn't need two products in the same small space, he said.

Risky business?
It doesn't take many applications to fill the small market for Mac products, making the niche somewhat risky for third-party developers. Apple's response has been to get more involved in selling its own applications, launching products aimed at high-profile markets such as video production and digital photography.

"Adobe is more important to Apple than Apple is to Adobe right now," Adobe customer Dumas said. "That's a reversal of history." The Mac company is concerned that Adobe will abandon it as a platform, "so Apple has no choice but to begin developing Adobe-killer products," he said.

But to create applications that bump off outside products is a significant risk for Apple, said Roger Kay, an analyst with researcher IDC.

"If you alienate key developers like Adobe, there's a real question: 'Are you going to be able to support all the needs your users have?'" Kay said. "If Apple does a good job bringing everything under its own roof, they can make an argument they don't need partners...The question they have to ask then is are they ever going to need those partners again."

Apple's strategy of covering more and more Mac software bases has led it to load more items into the Mac OS--a type of "bundling" activity that has gotten rival Microsoft into repeated trouble with regulators. But Apple's tiny market share has insulated it from the same type of attention.

"Since Apple's not under scrutiny for being a monopoly, it can perpetrate behavior that's more egregious in that respect (bundling) than Microsoft can," Kay said. While Apple's behavior may be high-handed, there's little anyone can do, he said. "Your customers may be annoyed, your developer partners may be annoyed, but regulators certainly aren't going to do anything."

Jake Kemper, an Adobe customer and an Orlando, Fla.-based broadcast designer, agreed that Apple calls the shots.

"Apple has the power to pretty much monopolize any software they present to their users," he said. "They have their own conference, they have the hardware and full control over the OS. It didn't make sense for Adobe to compete (when Apple integrated products), as far as I can see. I really don't think Apple was going to jump up and give Adobe any help in integrating to the new OS."

But that control of the Mac software stack is a double-edged sword for Apple, Kemper contended. "What they have put out runs great on the Mac," he said, which is what you expect "when you control all the hardware and the OS." However, he warned, "It will catch up to them. Everyone likes choices...The best innovations come from competition."

Apple as stepchild
Even Apple loyalists may not be satisfied with every Mac software product, Mac user Janz said. Janz said he tried the applications bundled with the various models of Macs his family owns and found many of them to be "very weak cousins to their commercial, non-Apple counterparts."

Some blame outside software makers at least as much as Apple, however, for limiting software choice on the Mac. Max Wyss of Prodok Engineering, a Swiss technical publishing company, said Adobe's Mac products lately have waned in performance compared to their Windows counterparts. He believes Adobe is gradually withdrawing resources from OS X development in hopes of moving customers to Windows, because it's cheaper to support one platform.

"The situation with Mac support of Adobe software is getting worse almost every day," Wyss said. "Besides the complete cancellation of the mentioned products, practically every current Adobe product has performance issues compared to other platforms."

But another Mac user, Ralph Martin of Seattle architecture firm Burgess Weaver Design Group, said Adobe has been slow to adapt its products for OS X, and that's why Apple is selling competing products.

"A vast number of Apple users prefer the Apple software versions" of its video and photo production products, he said, "primarily because Adobe dragged their feet in developing any software for Mac OS X for such a long time." Instead of putting out Photoshop for OS X, Martin said, Adobe waited until its version for Windows XP was developed, so it could launch with Microsoft's delivery of XP. "Is Apple just supposed to wait and see" if Adobe will do a product? he asked.

Yet Photoshop remains a steady seller on the Mac, a cornerstone of a relationship that is likely to continue for many more years, analyst Tarter said, but not without continued turbulence.

"Apple has always been a somewhat erratic partner" for outside software makers, he said. Apple "goes through generation after generation of people who have zero memory of what worked and what offended people before. So the support for ISVs (independent software vendors) looks schizophrenic from year to year."

Tarter added, however, that anyone who partners with Apple is aware of this tendency. "Sometimes they come out and are incredibly supportive, and a year later they're out there trashing every ISV that gets in their way."

7 comments

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Postscript is pretty
>>PostScript, a font technology that made it possible to achieve
attractive printed output from a PC.

David, is that your definition? Postscript is a page description
language that allows fonts to be printed out just the same it is
on screen.
Posted by richtestani (23 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Eh? I wonder about some of these assumptions...
I wonder about some of these allegations of Apple pushing
people out of the Mac market by large scale bundling of its
applications. You see, MS made IE inseparable from the OS and
gave it away for free. Sure, Apple makes some applications in
the pro/content creation space such as FCP, Logic, and DVD
studio pro, but these are separate applications that live and die
on their own dime. They are not bundled as features of the OS
and cost a hefty $1000-$10,000 on their own. I think it needs
to be pointed out that while Apple may be scaring 3rd party
application developers by creating excellent applications for its
own platform, by no means does this mean that if a third party
application developer did it first or better that Apple would have
not even devoted its resources to creating an Apple product to
do the task. In fact, for Apple, it is much cheaper for a 3rd party
to develop a solution than for them to do it.

The problem is that with some of these App categories, Adobe
essentially sat stagnant for a while. Take premiere for example,
it was a pretty good pro-sumer video editing application but
really hadn't changed much in years. Since many video editing
customers used macs, and wanted an excellent video editing
package that did justice to the emerging DV market Apple had
to either get Adobe to make a better product, develop their own
better product, or risk loosing customers to windows only
solutions. Since adobe didn't seem to be making Premiere any
better, Apple chose the lesser of two evils and made FCP instead
of loosing customers. I am sure they would have much rather
had Adobe step up to the plate and make an excellent solution,
but they didn't do it.

Finally, I question Adobe's logic about Market segmentation
numbers for their products. Sure, there are way more PCs in the
world than Macs. That isn't really the question here, however.
The question is, what platform do Adobe's niche core customers
use. It really doesn't matter how many accountants, telcos,
bankers and secretaries use cheap PCs to type letters and run
spreadsheets, those people aren't significantly adding to the
market opportunity for product likes photoshop and premiere.
So what if only 3% of the total PC market uses Macs, what
matters is what percentage of the target market for creative
professional products are on Mac OS. And by these
justifications, abandoning framemaker on Mac OS but not solaris
doesn't make any sense. Mac OS installed base in publishing is
much greater than Solaris.

Finally, I am not wholly convinced Adobe has done anything
particularly competitive in the last 5 to 10 years. Photoshop
remains their cash cow and it has been incrementally improved.
However, looking at the pace of development for their other
products, it is no surprise that Apple (or anyone for that matter)
that cares about the creative pro space stepped in to create
better solutions. You don't see AVID taking their ball and
running in the DV space... I mean sure, we have PDF, but where
is my PDF word processor?
Posted by arosenbl0 (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Glad someone else sees this
People keep talking like apple stole other developers thunder
and forced them out of business when most of what they have
done was just the opposite. Apple did crush some good MP3
player but what they delivered with their product so dwarfs what
any of them did or planned it is hard to fault them. They didn't
just crush the competition they changed digital music as we
know it.

iMovie: Although this might stop some people from buying
Premier, it was hardly a competitor. Nobody had ever tried to
bring video editing to such a simple level. I often described
iMovie as only doing 10 things but they happened to be the 10
most common DV editing things you can do which made the
application easy to use. People who used iMovie were not going
to purchase Premier.

iPhoto: Point me to the product it replaced? Apple created a new
category of digital photo application and the product was
panned when it was introduced because of it. Reviewers didn't
understand it was a capture and cataloging piece of software,
not a photo editor. It was Adobe who latter introduced a similar
product (windows only because it was not as good as iphoto).

iDVD: There was one DVD authoring package available at the
time and it was about $500 and confusing as hell. The idea of a
consumer level DVD authoring program just didn't exist when
this was created.

GarageBand: Looks like they did it again. Another new entry into
the consumer space. There is nothing like this geared toward
home users.

And remember none of these are FREE! You get a bundled copy
with the purchase of a system (apple does this for other people
too) but then you have to purchase them.

Yes, FCP is a direct competitor to the high end video editing
software but it is far from free. It is just a great application that
takes advantage of Mac specific abilities. If 3rd party vendors
continue to develop poor ports of windows programs for the
Mac I hope Apple just continues to hire so the can continue to
deliver world class applications.

Remember, the Mac was so great not because you could copy a
file with a mouse, but because Apple delivered API's that allowed
programers to make programs on the Mac that could not be
created any where else. If developers have stopped trying to take
advantage of these API's (because there's no windows
equivalent), who can blame Apple for showing off what the
platform can really do.

I hope a word processor and spread sheet are next (with full
Office document compatibility) followed by a much closer tie in
between Mail, iCal, Address book.....etc. I already have a name
for the bundle apple....Call it MyLife.
Posted by dpetrosky (61 comments )
Link Flag
Mac vs PC Cost Myth
Good to see CNET is still perpetuating the PC vs Mac cost myth. I
just sourced two PCs for my business and both were as
expensive and in one case more expensive than a comparable
Mac system (once I added wireless, RAM, firewire, flat panel
displays and larger hard drives). Why must writers continue to
perpetuate the myth of Mac's being more expensive than PCs.
Today's PCs are just as expensive. In fact, all computers are still
more expensive than they need to be. Macs included. The real
problem for Apple is that people are still being fed gloom and
doom about the Mac as a platform (will it be here tomorrow, etc)
and hence marketshare keeps slipping as more and more users
adopt the "safer" standard. In reality, font and color
management are still better on the Mac. Adobe is just pissed
that Apple has taken a big bite out of their market segment with
products like iPhoto and Final Cut Pro. And Apple is too busy
worrying about short term growth via iPod and music to notice
that there is problem (this was the case when I worked there
too).

That's the real reason for Adobe pulling away from the Mac.
Posted by (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
my take....
Here's my take on the relevant bits (feel free to differ)...

First, the only major competition Apple has given Adobe
was with Final Cut Pro vs Premiere.

I say that is good on Apple's behalf due to the fact that at
the time (and now, and going forward) Apple needed
(needs) to have another "Pro" market to go after. Final Cut
Pro (and Express) is not included as part of Mac OS X so it
can't be considered in the same light as Microsoft's
bundling activities.

Framemaker is dead and (please correct me if I'm wrong)
hasn't had an update in ages. Big loss.

Adobe came out with Photoshop Album (Windows only) as a
direct Windows alternative for iPhoto. iPhoto does not
compete with Photoshop nor Photoshop Elements directly
so it can't (shouldn't) be labeled as competition for either.
iPhoto was introduced and marketed as an easy way to
import/organize photos... not as a Photoshop replacement.

Adobe announced Audition (Windows only) well after
Soundtrack was released by Apple. Here, Adobe had no
product in this space and decided to release a "Windows
equivalent" after Apple had shown a market for it.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but Adobe announced Encore DVD
after Apple had brought both DVD Studio Pro (the market
Adobe is after) and iDVD to bear.

To quote: "Adobe is more important to Apple than Apple is
to Adobe right now,' Adobe customer Dumas said. 'That's a
reversal of history.' The Mac company is concerned that
Adobe will abandon it as a platform, 'so Apple has no
choice but to begin developing Adobe-killer products,' he
said."

Really? Then explain to me why the only "Adobe-killer"
product Apple has is Final Cut Pro.

Explain to me this quote: "If you recall, Adobe was one of
the first companies to have an optimized version of their
software running on a (Mac) G5, using the 64-bit
functionality of the G5 processors."

That last quote is referring to Photoshop (7 at the time).

So, I'm not trying to be all "pro-Apple" but just laying down
the facts as I see them. Please, by all means, refute my
post. I welcome any and all constructive criticism of it so
long as you bring proof to the table.
Posted by (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
"...Adobe has been slow to adapt its products for OS X..."
Regarding the following comment from Ralph Martin in this article (see below):

The actual reason Adobe had to wait to release its products on OSX was due to major bugs in the initial release of OSX, which forced Adobe to wait until Apple resolved the problems in release 10.1. This is why Adobe products require OSX 10.1 or higher to run.

Since then, any Adobe product that is developed for OSX is always developed simultaneously with the same Windows version of that product.

Now let me go read that "Outsourced Jobs" article I have some recent experience in that area... ;c)

tom (former employee of Adobe, so I'm biased)
-----

"But another Mac user, Ralph Martin of Seattle architecture firm Burgess Weaver Design Group, said Adobe has been slow to adapt its products for OS X, and that's why Apple is selling competing products.

"A vast number of Apple users prefer the Apple software versions" of its video and photo production products, he said, "primarily because Adobe dragged their feet in developing any software for Mac OS X for such a long time." Instead of putting out Photoshop for OS X, Martin said, Adobe waited until its version for Windows XP was developed, so it could launch with Microsoft's delivery of XP. "Is Apple just supposed to wait and see" if Adobe will do a product? he asked."
Posted by (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Big fat carrot... $ and marketshare
Of course Adobe is chasing the big fat carot offered up by the
Big M....
remember, it's "show me the money"
Besides, OSX was going through it's usual set of engineering
gyrations before it landed it's feet on the 10.3.x. pad. Adobe
wants solid platform to work with... and XP was going to be
there first.
jlemcke
Posted by all2tropical (10 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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