A balanced look at the MACR/ADBE deal

Everyone has been blogging this, and with very good reason, but I wanted to think about it for a bit until I could write a balanced analysis of the Adobe acquisition of Macromedia.

Firstly, please chill. In the short term, there will be no impact on developers from this deal except for what we bring on ourselves. There will be minimal or no changes at Macromedia until the deal is approved, which will take at least 3-4 months. However, if Flash developers start pulling a Chicken Little, we’ll simply frighten an already skittish market and do harm to ourselves. While I’m sure we all have reservations, it’s in our best interest to reflect this deal in a positive light, at least until we have concrete reasons for concern.

In the longer term, I think there are 4 important areas to look at:

  1. Flash as a platform: One of the biggest benefits of the deal is that it stabilizes Flash’s power base, and increases the available Research & Development budget – this is increasingly important with the upcoming release of Microsoft Sparkle, the first real competition to Flash as a platform. Additionally, having the Adobe brand backing Flash will increase its visibility and viability for a lot of potential clients. My only real concern is that Adobe will bloat or otherwise depreciate the Flash player, but being as Maelstrom appears to be nearing completion (and again, the deal is not going to affect anything for months yet), this won’t be an issue until Flash Player 9 (if it ever becomes one).

  2. Flash as a design tool: It’s obviously a great move for designers, who will definitely see tighter integration between the products they use most (Photoshop, Flash, Illustrator, AE, etc), and likely more design functionality in Flash (AE style timeline anyone?).

  3. Flash as a development tool: This is one of my areas of concern – Adobe has no experience whatsoever with creating and supporting tools for developers. However, this would lead me to believe that Adobe would leave the management of this area to those with the most experience, the Macromedia team we already know and love, at least for the first year or two. My guess is that this will be one of the areas of MM that is least affected by the deal. Until I see things start playing out differently, I’m not going to worry about this.

  4. The Flash community: I think I’m in a pretty good position to talk about this aspect, as I run a User Group, participate in Team Macromedia, and am deeply involved in a lot of other MM programs. Macromedia definitely has a much more open corporate culture, and does a better job (imho) at promoting community. I have to admit I have concerns here, but they are pretty minimal. It wouldn’t be in Adobe’s best interests to piss off the very strong and very verbal Flash community by killing these programs. If anything, it would be to Adobe’s benefit to learn from Macromedia on this front to develop an even more loyal user base and extract more user feedback on their products.

So in summary, let’s all chill out until we have more details. This is not going to have any short term impact unless we cause one by panicking, and even the mid-term impact looks minimal. There is cause for some concern about this deal, but there is also a lot of potential opportunity.

And don’t forget: If you have specific concerns, send them to Macromedia at feedback@macromedia.com.

Grant Skinner

The "g" in gskinner. Also the "skinner".



  1. I think the Microsoft monopoly on vector and animation industry will have more chances to be ripped with peace now. Very good point.

  2. Roger Lancefield April 18, 2005 at 12:10pm

    Very interesting article, thanks. Funnily enough, of all the doom and gloom scenarios floated today, I probably feel most concerned about your point regarding the relative ‘openness’ of the two companies. I think one of the great virtues of Macromedia is the engagement with the user-community of key members of their staff, their willingness to allow users to leave comments on live docs (that still blows me away), the relative frankness and openness of their staff on various forums, etc.

    It all makes users feel listened to, connected, and helps foster a ‘good feeling’ about the product, the technology and the vendor. When I look at a Macromedia product box, these are some of the ‘warm, fuzzy’ things that run through my mind.

    Look at how great Macromedia have been about CFEclipse. They understand that many coders don’t find Dreamweaver to be an ideal code editing environment, and on the whole they been very sympathetic and helpful with regard to CFEclipse development. There’s been no cold shouldering of CFEclipse discussion, no refusing to give aid in the various forums, quite the opposite in fact. Even BlueDragon has, for the most part it seems, been tolerated at worst. I just can’t see Adobe being so sympathetic in a comparable situation. I could be wrong, but…

    I’m trying to imagine Macromedia as a secretive, diffident, aloof company, responding with curt “up drawbridge”-type responses to enquiries, extremely precious about their technology. No, it wouldn’t be nice, it wouldn’t be the same. I hope this doesn’t change.

    Cynics might say, Duh! why do you think Adobe’s buying MM, it’s because they have a hard-nosed attitude that their revenue streams are better. Regardless of the accuracy of that, I can say that if that’s how things turn out, they won’t be buying me. If Adobe start to withdraw favours and start ‘charging by the minute’, so to speak, I’ll use the opportunity to say Sayonara to ColdFusion and explore Perl and OpenInteract, or PHP, or Python, or …


  3. IF the merger goes through:) It’s a stiff acquisition buying one’s top competitor, but it happens:) I think it’s potentially a great move. I grow weary of the court battles that cripple the software of each side. My only worries:

    1. Adobe does something screwy with the SWF licensing.

    2. Adobe pumps up the application (or, God forbid, the player) with bloat that requires 90% of my machine’s memory – AKA PhotoShop MO.

    3. Adobe keeps the same crap relationship with their customer base. Macromedia excels in the industry with their customer rapport. I can’t personally stand Adobe’s site, and it’s my opinion that Macromedia (while not perfect) does a pretty good job. Adobe leaves it to user groups that are loosely coupled with the corporation. Maybe I’m not looking in the right places:)

    On the high side, there is a LOT of potential for all of the integration side. PhotoShop, AfterEffects, Flash, Premiere, Illustrator… All on the same plate? Mmm..

    As for the competing products. I really like Fireworks, and I will keep the version I have now on my machine:) I will continue to use it in hopes that either Adobe someday comes up with something better for the purposes I use it for, or I discover enough about the Adobe alternatives that I no longer desire to use Fireworks. PhotoShop is getting there with object selection, if they had a good live vectors function – not quite provided with paths – and an improved imageReady I would be a convert. If I put time into imageReady I would probably discover some great things too. Opportunity for discovery:) That’s a high point.

    These merger and corporate change things force evolution. Even if Adobe doesn’t sell CF, Freehand, Dreamweaver… Even if they slaughter Flash (which I doubt, the dev / design teams are coming with the merger no doubt), that’s the way the software industry has always worked – Darwin style. And though this has been happening for decades, I wouldn’t load any software from the 80’s on my machine. I’ll say the same thing in another 20 years:)

  4. I think to Adobe and I remember me SVG.

    Is it possible that Adobe implements SVG in Flash ?

    It will be great ! 😀

    Just hoping…

  5. Torbjørn Caspersen April 19, 2005 at 12:34am

    Thanks for the level headed article. I also think that flash developers have little to fear. Adobe usually makes software better after they buy them – think go-live. Interesting, but quirky when bought, the slowly evolved into something that integrates beautifully with the rest of adobes software.

    I’m not afraid this will stifle innovation either. Look at Photoshop and Illustator. When the ‘arms race’ between Ilustrator and Freehand was at it’s worst, each new version had load of fancy, but largely usless functions. Bitmap filtes anyone? At the same time photoshop got new functionalty that might not be dazzling, but was extremely well thought throught and worked. Layer, layer masks, etc.

    If this means that flash gets some of the quality and polish that adobe devlivers while remaining a good development platform, and I think it will, then the only bad thing about this is that the graphics industry is now a virtual monopoly.

  6. Thanks for the great article Grant. I agree that there is not too much to worry about. I also think that Torbjørn made some very key points. Adobe has always worked to make their software better. And, being a designer and not a developer, I’m excited to see how Adobe will intergrate the design power of Illustrator (and, hopefully, AfterEffects) into Flash. Using Flash, and the work that Macromedia has done with mobility, we are going to see some big changes in Acrobat.

    But I must say… Adobe Flash? Adobe Dreamweaver? kinda sounds funny… doesn’t it?

  7. I could think of no other competitor worthy of keeping the lights on at Macromedia. Adobe understands the design community – and tighter integration with the tools most of us are using together anyway is more than welcome- let’s see how they fare with a group of adopted developers (God forbid Microsoft bought them – think of that potential mess!)

  8. Good post Grant. I’d say my biggest concern is adobe’s ability to understand developers needs and the idea of a “platform”. the great thing about the flash player is it’s elegant backwards capability. flash 3,4,5,6 all play in 7. This stability has lead to RIA’s-customers do not need to worry the new player makes their app break. With what i have had to deal with in acrobat 4,5,6,7 i hope they actually listen to the MM guys. New features that cause legacy files to blowup are not worth it.

  9. This should be good for the community, I am hoping that they will tie in Dreamweaver and Flash to the Creative Suite, this will be very very powerful.

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