Well now that the dust has settled on the Microsoft / Yahoo deal it seems that Microsoft has now got what they wanted without having to break open the piggy bank. This left me thinking what Steve Ballmer and Microsoft must be about the can do with the money they save with not buying Yahoo. My thoughts… Buy Adobe.
Whoa, I hear you say… Well just stick with me here and I will go through some of the question you must have?
Why would Microsoft buy Adobe? Well Adobe market space is in making very high quality designer/developer products for Apple and Microsoft Operating Systems. Granted that the majority of the higher end of the users of the products are use on OSX but almost every product also has a Windows version which in some cases are even better than the OSX version. If Microsoft were to buy Adobe and do nothing but ensure that all the Adobe products continue to released equally on Windows and OSX then this would eventually lead to people coming back to the Windows platform. People mainly chose to use OSX because of the stereotype that all Windows application are slow and crash a lot. Well with the advent and Windows Vista and now the immanent release of Windows 7 these stereotype’s are truly being blown out of the water. People perception are now changing and now that Windows 7 and OSX 10.6 are going to be very similar in functionality this leaves the only differentiate being the programs that run on the platform. So if you make sure that everything is more or less the same on both platforms then people are naturally going to come back to Windows because its the platform that has the largest choice of devices and software that can be run. Also remember that Microsoft are already the biggest third-party developer of software for the OSX with Microsoft Office so they are not going to just buy the company and then just drop all the OSX development.
Yeah but even a cash cow like Microsoft cant afford Adobe? Nope… As of 24/8/2009 Adobe Systems market capitalisation was $17.24 Billion which compared to the Yahoo buy out offer price of $46 Billion means that Microsoft could buy them out and still have more money in the bank then if the Yahoo deal would have happened. So yes they could definitely afford it.
What’s in it for me? Less hassle. The benefits for the end user would also be fantastic such as being able a bundled a PDF reader with-in Windows. User would no longer would need to download a Adobe Reader when they install Windows on a computer and they could also write it to take advantage of the automatic update service. This would mean consumers would not have to go through the laborious manual update process every 3 months as they try to plus the nasty security holes recently found in Adobe Reader. Even the non-technical aspect of the merger of the products would be great to be able to have the flexibility to use the file formats such as XPS and DOCX natively with Adobe products as this would allow users of the products to easily share information amongst people and platforms.
What about anti-trust? Well anti-trust in my mind is about leveraging your majority in one space to dominate another space as Microsoft did back in the 90’s to dominate the browser space. But there is nothing that say’s you can’t buy someone that has a majority in one field (in this case desktop publishing) do long as they new company does not already compete in this space and the two companies combined will result in a bigger force in the market that will prevent competition. Now some people would argue that product like Word and Publisher, Expressions Studio and the XML Paper Specification (XPS) are all products that compete with Adobe but these products are either aimed are low end SOHO use or are strictly word processing programs not the high end/professional desktop publishing that Adobe make. Adobe also make a raft of other products that are have no Microsoft version as competition such as Premier and Photoshop. But i do grant that this could be an issues but nothing that Microsoft and its raft of lawyers could not get around even if it meant having to sell off parts of the company to get it over the line.
But Microsoft are just going to re-write the PDF standard? When you compare Apple and Microsoft for their track record on how much they support open specification then Microsoft truly looks open source. Apple’s iPhone is one of the most locked down devices in the world and their hardware devices could not be anymore of a sealed black box with keep out stickers all over them if you tried. But even the once proprietary PDF specification is now open so if Microsoft were to acquire Adobe they could not do anything to the format without industry feedback any way. In any case the other elephant in the room that that will keep Microsoft charging down the open specification track would be Google with up coming products such as Wave, Microsoft will need to stay on the Open Spec band wagon.
I still don’t like it. Well I don’t doubt that a lot of people would object to such a move but a move like this would not only be very good for Microsoft but also the industry at large as it will let people have the functionally they want without all the barriers.