April 18, 2005 11:44 AM PDT
Macromedia, Adobe make peace for bigger fight
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seen blurring boundaries between traditional documents and applications and multimedia, so it's not surprising that Microsoft should wind up with an architectural model that's similar to what Macromedia has been proposing all along.
Today, analysts expect the upcoming presentation environment in Windows, which includes an XML-based language called XAML (Extensible Application Markup Language), to be able to do many of the things that Macromedia's Flash and Adobe's Acrobat software do. Microsoft's tools are optimized for Windows, while Adobe and Macromedia have been committed to a more diverse desktop environment including the Mac OS and now Linux.
Longhorn looms large among potential competitors in the market for online application platform providers. Others include Flash combined with Macromedia's Flex server software; Sun Microsystems' J2SE; a platform under open-source development by Laszlo Systems; and the collection of established Web standards recently dubbed "Ajax." IBM's Workplace initiative also offers a Java-driven approach for building "rich client" applications.
And with its acquisition of Macromedia and Flash, Adobe will have to reconcile its support for open standards with its ownership of one of the Web's most successful proprietary formats.
Not quite a year ago, Adobe outlined to the W3C its own vision for Web-based application standards, delineating a model that relied on the World Wide Web Consortium's Scalable Vector Graphics recommendation, conceived as a standard Flash alternative.
IBM, Sun Microsystems, SAP and Microsoft contributed papers to the W3C; Macromedia did not.
Enemies, a love story
The deal between Adobe and Macromedia was first conceived years ago, after a period in which the two companies were at loggerheads.
In the late 1990s, the companies started encroaching on either other's turf more and more. To compete with Macromedia's high-end Dreamweaver Web authoring software, Adobe launched its ill-fated GoLive title. To compete with Adobe's dominant Illustrator software for graphics professionals, Macromedia acquired Freehand and introduced Fireworks.
Adobe also tried to invade Macromedia's dominion by throwing its weight behind SVG. More recently, Macromedia took at nibble at PDF with its Flash Paper offering.
The companies hadn't begun as direct rivals. Adobe emerged from the world of print, and Macromedia came from the purely digital realm of CD-ROM and then Web content creation.
By the middle of 2001, it was clear to both companies that their efforts to compete with one another were stalling. The relationship between two culturally different companies had devolved into more of a petty rivalry than a strategically sound battle. As they struggled to compete in the marketplace, the companies took each other to court over patents.
Meanwhile, Microsoft was already talking about Longhorn, hinting that the software would include "an advanced presentation environment."
"After 9/11, we both realized that being enemies didn't make sense," Adobe CEO Bruce Chizen said in a conference call on Monday, referring to his discussions with Macromedia's then-CEO Rob Burgess. "We were not longer competing."
No longer competing with each other, that is. In fact, Adobe and Macromedia's peace pact had less to do with their own sense of corporate or technological comity in the wake of a national tragedy than with serious if not existential common threats, particularly Microsoft.
"When I think about competitors, there's only one I really worry about," Chizen said in an interview a year ago. "Microsoft is the competitor, and it's the one that keeps me up at night."
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