March 13, 2006 9:13 AM PST

Microsoft pauses work on Adobe rival

Microsoft has temporarily halted development work on some aspects of its upcoming professional graphics application as it tries to bring companion tools and its next-generation Windows Vista operating system to market.

The application--called Expression Graphic Designer--was first released in test form in June last year, and is based on Expression, the tool Microsoft acquired with its 2003 purchase of Hong Kong company Creature House. But despite being widely seen as a rival for Adobe Systems' Photoshop and Illustrator products, Microsoft does not see the product as a standalone offering.

"At the moment, there's no great reason for us to release it as a standalone product," Wayne Smith, the company's senior product manager for Europe, the Middle East and African professional designer markets, said last week.

In an interview with ZDNet Australia, Smith explained that Microsoft was taking so long to bring Graphic Designer to market because the company had put "a lot" of the development work for the application "on pause" until sibling products and Vista could be finalized.

"It's not been that someone's been beavering for all these months and getting nowhere," he said.

Smith said that Microsoft sees Graphic Designer solely as a companion product for other products in the Expression range--namely Interactive Designer and Web Designer.

Interactive Designer is for building the user interface and layout of interactive Web or Windows applications, while Web Designer is purely aimed at Web site construction.

Accessory tools first
The Expression range is meant to ease coordination between software developers who write code and graphic artists who create visual elements, using the Extensible Application Markup Language (XAML) which Microsoft developed.

"So if the other two tools haven't been released, there's no great reason to have this released yet. It absolutely exists to support both Web Designer and Interactive Designer," said Smith.

The executive said Graphic Designer would probably be released at the same time as Web Designer, with both likely to make it to market before Interactive Designer and Vista.

"We can maybe even possibly put them in the same box as a mini studio of some kind," he said.

"Web Designer, because it's a traditional design tool on current-based standards, will be the first release. I don't know when, but towards the back end of 2006," Smith said. "Maybe around October or November.

"Graphic Designer will probably sit alongside it, because it makes sense from a synergistic point of view to have the two tools together."

Smith said Interactive Designer depended on Microsoft's WinFX programming model being introduced with Vista, itself due to ship in late 2006.

"Interactive Designer's going to be after Vista, because it's built on the WinFX architecture," he said. "We need to wait for WinFX to ship in its final release, and then to do a couple of months of stabilization work."

Microsoft has already released test versions--called community technology previews (CTPs)--of Graphic and Interactive Designer.

"There will be those CTPs all through the process. So we will keep on banging CTPs out. Even up until the last few months before it's released, people will be able to use the tool," Smith said of Interactive Designer.

Renai LeMay of ZDNet Australia reported from Sydney.

See more CNET content tagged:
Microsoft WinFX, Interactive, Adobe Systems Inc., Microsoft Windows Vista, Microsoft Corp.

12 comments

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An Adobe Rival from Microsoft
Sounds like an interesting attempt..But I'm happy with Adobe stuff.
Posted by styymy (218 comments )
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Adobe has nothing to worry about this
Abode acrobat documents are defacto standards in digital documents arena. Microsoft realises that it is no point in going head to head with adobe.

Microsoft will make a big push into adobe like technology if there is lot of money to make.
Posted by Tanjore (322 comments )
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Adobe has nothing to worry about this
Abode acrobat documents are defacto standards in digital documents arena. Microsoft realises that there is no point in going head to head with adobe.

Microsoft will make a big push into adobe like technology if there is lot of money to make.
Posted by Tanjore (322 comments )
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Adobe needs competition
Adobe products have been lacking in "polish" lately. Too many features, not enough functionality, and more programming quirks than in previous versions. Although I don't see Microsoft as a serious rival any time soon, a little pressure to do better wouldn't hurt.
Posted by Marcus Westrup (630 comments )
Link Flag
virus
Geeze, is there a product class in software that Microsoft isnt trying to get into and dominate via any means necissary? This year they really are out to close down Adobe, IBM, Apple, Sony (playstation), Google, and the like. Bascially every company that actually brought us any fresh idea.

Honestly I hope MS competitors bind together, cause otherwise they will be extinct by 2007
Posted by bwvla (166 comments )
Reply Link Flag
NO! We're not an illegal monopoly... Citizen Gates
NOW you know why the DOJ has declared Microsoft an illegal monopoly in the past anti-trust trials.

EU is looking very close at Microsoft in European markets for the very same reasons...]

Once a shark, always a shark...
Posted by Llib Setag (951 comments )
Link Flag
Another in the long list of MS also-rans?
When people parrot the CW that "MS always wins," they seem to forget MS Money, IIS, Publisher, MSN (portal and ISP), PlaysForSure, and the rest of the long list of products that were going to crush the competition but didn't.

What do people remember? Windows, IE, and Xbox. Only one of which is less than 10 years old.
Posted by M C (598 comments )
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cool technology snuffed out by MS
I'm guessing this was an effort by MS to buy a technology so that a rival didn't get their hands on it. The thing is, the original Expression was hardly an Adobe killer, but rather more like an extension or plug-in to Adobe Illustrator.
Perhaps MS saw the potential in Expression, especially in vector animation...who knows?
But did they really think they could convert any Adobe users to a MS design app?
Posted by Jackson Pollock (5 comments )
Link Flag
Adobe/Macromedia clout
Me thinks that since the merger of Adobe & Macromedia that a quick phone call from Adobe to Redmond discussing " future release dates of pending Vista Versions of Adobe & Macromedia products may be delayed awhile after the MSVistaOS is actually available in December 2006/2007/???" was the REAL reson for this MS "pause" in developing Adobe competitors.

Microsloth doesnot have their "Adobe Killers" fully ready for simultaneous release with MS AstalaVista, so if Adobe & Macromedia drag their feet in getting fully compliant Longhorn applications for the MSV-OS launch...
THAT would be an even bigger reason for millions of users NOT TO UPGRADE TO VISTA OS.

Adobe can drag their feet to any of their OS Partners, MS & Apple, if they feel that their partners are producing competing applications.
THIS affects millions of people that use Adobe/Macromedia products & MS/Apple know this.
Posted by Llib Setag (951 comments )
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Sad Expression User
Expression by CreatureHouse was a fun little niche illustration app that appeared to be going places. Before it was bought by MS that is.

Although there's been similiar functionality in recent versions of Adobe Illustrator, they haven't quite matched Expression's ability to easily produce stunning natural-media type artwork.
And since Expression was vector based, the possibilities for animation were intriguing-especially since CreatureHouse was producing a animation app at that time they were bought by MS. There's no mention of what ever became of that project.

Seems to me that Adobe could have been a much better fit, and would have been able to really do something special with CreatureHouse Expression. Too bad they didn't buy them instead.

Now I'm really sad because I can't go back and use my old copy of CreatureHouse Expression...I've lost the CD!
Posted by Jackson Pollock (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
As it turns out...
Microsoft goes chicken competing with Adobe head on in the graphics design tool market. But it does serve Microsoft well to integrate the graphics design tool as a development tool, where Microsoft already has a base market to begin with.

Early articles showed that Expression is a suite of tools integrated to generating code for graphics and animation rich web and windows UI components/forms using .Net and/or XAML. The suite seems to target Windows Vista.

Pretty cool, I'd say.

:)
Posted by Mendz (519 comments )
Reply Link Flag
What Happened To...
Microsoft Liquid Motion?
I think they released it in 2000, when Flash was already gaining ground as the leader in web animation.
Liquid Motion was a simpler was to create web animations and it was total crap, just like Frontpage is considered crap, by some.
Why is Microsoft competing with such a huge eco-system as Adobe/Macromedia?

All design schools teach Adobe software as a backbone to design. And most designers use Macs and would never work on anything from Microsoft.


What's the deal with Microsoft constantly competing with things that already established.
How about innovating? No?
Posted by wmasterxl (4 comments )
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