PC News Archive

The Adobe I Used to Know

October 15, 2010 – by Per Christensson

Last week, a rumor surfaced that Microsoft was interested in buying Adobe. Most people I talked to about the rumor had a visceral negative reaction. Some were simply afraid of such a big merger since they favor competition. Some were worried about future Mac software support. Others were concerned that Microsoft will ruin the Adobe brand. Personally, I would rather not see the two companies merge, but it is because I favor a competitive marketplace, not because of Microsoft's effect on the Adobe brand. The fact is, the Adobe brand is already tarnished.

Adobe used to be on the cutting edge of software development and was a highly creative company, similar to Apple. But like Steve Jobs said in his public letter, "Thoughts on Flash," a few months ago, the two companies have moved in distinctly different directions during the past several years. While I don't side with Steve on the Flash issue, I agree with his point about Adobe. Ever since Adobe bought Macromedia at the end of 2005, the company has slowly gone downhill. Instead of the creative, quality-focused company I knew for so many years, Adobe has become more of an industrial brand, cranking out software simply to meet project deadlines. Sure, there are a few more features added to each Creative Suite (CS) release, but the innovation and polish of the products is gone.

When I purchased CS5 Web Premium a few months ago, I found literally dozens of bugs within the first few hours of using the program. Dozens. Dreamweaver alone had so many bugs, I refused to use it for several weeks. Instead of focusing on improving their foundational Web development program, Adobe pooled their resources into developing more Flash workflow applications, like Flash Builder and Flash Catalyst. If you don't use Flash (like myself and most Web developers), these programs are completely worthless. Adobe also still bundles Fireworks with CS5, which looks like it was last updated in 1995. Yet they killed off GoLive, which I miss dearly.

Fortunately, Photoshop remains a great program. Acrobat is pretty decent as well. But outside of those two applications, the new Creative Suite has been a monumental disappointment. I was not at all surprised when Adobe announced disappointing CS5 sales a few weeks ago. While many creative professionals rely on Adobe products, at some point paying $1,800 for a mediocre software suite isn't worth it. There are other alternatives.

So I'm more concerned about Adobe's current situation than a possible future merger. But if Adobe's acquisition of Macromedia is any kind of indicator, a Microsoft buyout of Adobe is not too promising. I would like to see Adobe refocus its efforts and get back to being a creative, quality-focused company. From a business perspective, it means getting a new CEO and new management. I hope that happens before it's too late.

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