Mac Daily News asks if Apple should buy Adobe. That would be no.

In their commentary about a story that postulates Adobe writing office apps, Mac Daily News suggests Apple should buy Adobe. The idea is that they would kill Photoshop on Windows and shake up the industry.

I vote no.

Personally, I think killing Photoshop on windows would deluge Apple with lawsuits, but that’s not my point. My point is that Apple should buy companies that fit into their overall goals, business pursuits, and corporate culture. Is that Adobe? Seems to me Apple and Adobe haven’t exactly been best buddies lately.

For the last five years or more, Adobe has not been particularly kind to the Mac:

  • They discontinued Premiere on the Mac, whining they couldn’t compete with Apple when the reality was Final Cut was simply vastly superior. (They no doubt thought this would hurt Apple, but it backfired and simply accelerated Final Cut’s dominance.)
  • They took longer than any major player except Microsoft to make their major apps Universal. (Microsoft at least has the excuse that Office may benefit little from this, but Adobe’s apps received huge benefits from being Universal, yet they dragged their feet.)
  • Photoshop Elements always lags behind its Windows counterpart (currently at version 4.0 when Windows has had 5.0 for months).
  • They rested on their Photoshop laurels until Apple introduced Aperture, then got off their asses to develop their own all-in-one post-production tool, Lightroom.
  • Flash on the Mac is pathetically slow.

Those are just the ones off the top of my head. It doesn’t matter that history has shown Adobe would be in a better place had they paid a bit more attention to Apple and, yes, they have recently brought Premiere back (a good thing, in my opinion). But the fact remains the Mac has been about as welcome to Adobe as a bastard at a family reunion.

None of this is meant to denigrate Adobe’s software (well, except maybe Mac Flash). I use Photoshop Elements and Premiere Elements on Windows XP and have recommended them to others. However, in moving to the Mac I’m avoiding the former due to it being behind (and not Universal), and the latter does not even exist.

Since Adobe has not been any kinder to the Mac the last decade than Microsoft, why in heaven’s name would Apple buy them? This is a far cry from picking up a relatively small maker of DVD authoring products or sound editing tools. Adobe is a monolith. Why would Apple take that on, especially since much of the company is clearly not in the Mac camp?

I don’t think Apple should pursue a Photoshop killer, but I like the idea of them competing with much of what Adobe offers. For example, I’m hoping Apple adds draw/paint capabilities (in-house or acquired) to iWork, and continues to borrow from Aperture for iPhoto. Will they succeed in every case? Of course not, but users win. Does anyone think Lightroom would exist if not for Aperture? That the Mac’s Elements would lag so far behind if iPhoto was enhanced even further? That Premiere would have been brought back if not for the overwhelming success of Final Cut?

Bottom line is that while people talk about Microsoft’s “lock-in” with Windows and Apple’s “lock-in” with iPod/iTunes, Adobe sits very quietly above the fray while dominating huge portions of content creation. Does anyone else think the pricing for Creative Suite 3.0 shows that Adobe clearly sees themselves as having no competition?

Apple, don’t buy Adobe. Instead, continue to make products that will force Adobe to pay attention to the Mac, and be competitive, like they haven’t had to for so long. Competition is a great thing, and can only help the Mac and its users.

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13 thoughts on “Mac Daily News asks if Apple should buy Adobe. That would be no.

  1. What difference does it make who started development, when the product is not released? Do you really believe that Aperture had nothing to do with Lightroom hitting the Mac (as beta) so soon thereafter?

    That Adobe has the Mac at a relatively low priority seems obvious.

    I’m not slamming them, I’m simply disagreeing with that strategy.

  2. I couldn’t care less which one’s development began first.

    You said that Adobe didn’t “got off their asses to develop their own all-in-one post-production tool” until Apple introduced Aperture. This is not fair to Adobe, Lightroom was already in development. Aperture helped save Lightroom, only because Aperture proved that there is a market for that kind of app; without a market there is little point to develop anything. Adobe knew that Apple would be first to market, they had to keep pace.

    And they didn’t rest on their Photoshop laurels either, Adobe was hard at work on Photoshop CS2 at the time: “It’s fair to say that some thought engineering resources used on Shadowland [Lightroom’s code name] might better be used on Photoshop.

    Engineering resources are not infinite, it can happen to anyone. Recently, Apple had to make a choice between Leopard and the iPhone: “We had to borrow some key software engineering and QA resources from our Mac OS X team, and as a result we will not be able to release Leopard at our WWDC in early June as planned.

    There’s no reason to slam Adobe for this.

  3. MacDailyNews are dumbass Maczealots, so their “opinion” is totally irrelevant.

  4. fixyourthinking,

    “I’m not so sure Final Cut is “vastly” superior – Premiere still has better rotoscoping than Final Cut – rotoscoping is used for things like “lightsaber illumination””

    There are certain of Premiere’s features that may best Final Cut, but on the whole FCP is much superior. The reviews have certainly said so. PC Magazine just gave it 4.5 (out of 5) and named it their Editor’s Choice. In that review there are comparisons to Premiere.

    I certainly don’t rule Adobe out of this. FCP has a nice head start now (due to Adobe letting Premiere languish), but they’ll have to keep on their toes. That’s just the kind of competition I want. We all win when that happens.

  5. “So let me see if I get this right: Adobe castigated Apple by deciding not to release or kill apps, or deliberately offering badly implemented Mac versions of apps, you know, apps that produce money when Mac people buy them? On purpose? Does anybody see the business logic behind that affirmation?”

    I never said that. I never even implied that. Adobe (wrongly) thought the Mac was going down the tubes 10 years ago, and ignored it.

    They (wrongly) thought that by killing Premiere they might make an impact on the Mac and its ability to become a digital video workstation.

    Now they’re crawling back with Premiere (a good product), which I said is a good thing. And Apple kick-started them into releasing Lightroom. It’s a shame Adobe couldn’t get credit for introducing the all-in-one post production tool, but the fact is they had zero incentive (except better business sense) to release it until Apple did so.

    What Apple has done for Adobe lately is give them an explosion in growth for their products that far exceeds (on a percentage basis) the kind of revenue they’d make on Windows. That Adobe was not smart enough to see this (in some way, even now they don’t see it) is their problem, not Apple’s.

  6. “Hell yeah!

    Most of what’s in the article are actually reasons to do just that. “

    I think that assumes Apple could buy Adobe and get them to emphasize the Mac (or even treat them equally). It doesn’t work that way. When you buy a monolith, the monolith doesn’t change. Buying a small company is one thing, buying something like dobe is quite another.

  7. “The development of Lightroom began long before Apple introduced Aperture, but, as explained in this article, “in many respects, Aperture actually helped save Lightroom.””

    Which proves my point. I couldn’t care less which one’s development began first. It’s clear Lightroom would never have seen the light of day had Apple not released Aperture. Once released, Adobe got off their asses and made Lightroom into something they could actually deliver.

    I ran the Lightroom beta for three months. It’s a fine product, but we never would have seen it if Adobe was left to their own devices.

  8. “Personally, I think killing Photoshop on windows would deluge Apple with lawsuits, but that’s not my point.” How so? Lots of companies in the past dropped Mac products without getting sued.

    “Shake was killed, and there is no substitute yet in sight. Logic is moldy already” Is that so? That sucks! I don’t use those products, but Apple should certainly keep them up to date, though, obviously, they have a lot on their plate right now.

    My thoughts: Apple could craft an Acrobat/Distiller killer with little effort. Preview has a smaller feature set, but performance-wise blows Adobe out of the water. Apple could use GIMP code with a nicer GUI to kill Photoshop. Maybe they should. Flash, I agree, is awful–particularly with its increased use in advertising. But, it looks to me that H.264 will put a nail in Flash’s coffin; YouTube is trending towards H.264, and YouTube is by far the most USEFUL use of Flash.

  9. So let me see if I get this right: Adobe castigated Apple by deciding not to release or kill apps, or deliberatedly offering badly implemented Mac versions of apps, you know, apps that produce money when Mac people buy them? On purpose? Does anybody see the business logic behind that affirmation? Come on!

    First: Adobe has made incredible efforts to put a whole suite of enormously complicated code apps through every transition Apple has jerked them through, sometimes without previous warning. It happened to produce OS X versions of their apps when the OS support wasn’t there, plugging the holes themselves (something Quark rather didn’t and see the results). That costs money.

    Second: what has Apple done for Adobe lately, other than deciding to kill Carbon 64 and so trying to force a brutal code migration to Cocoa if Adobe decides to explore doing 64 bit versions of their apps (that goes for all multiplatform vendors out there, by the way)?.

    Apple buying Adobe would mean the usual: code stagnation and abandonment. Shake was killed, and there is no substitute yet in sight. Logic is mouldy already, and its Windows version (lots of users) was killed outright when Apple bought eMagic (but then it is Apple, so if they do it is OK, isn’t it? Somebody ought to point out the corpse trail of adquired and killed apps behind FCPro, sometimes).

  10. I’m not so sure Final Cut is “vastly” superior – Premeire still has better rotoscoping than Final Cut – rotoscoping is used for things like “lightsaber illumination”

    Illustrator will die once people get used to the features of CS3.

    I would look for Apple to eventually make an iPhoto Pro

  11. “if Apple should buy Adobe”?

    Hell yeah!

    Most of what’s in the article are actually reasons to do just that. And, no, I don’t think Apple should end Windows development in the case … Just make the Mac versions of PS and co. as good as they once were …

  12. I fully agree with you that buyIng Adobe would be a bad idea for Apple. Adobe never made very good software. I never was a fan of Photoshop or Illustrator, but I did not have much choice either. both apps are too complicated to get 95% of the job done. Adobe make overcomplicated bloatware like Microsoft. I still feel sorry that they have killed Freehand in favor for Illustrator. Apple should have bought Macromedia instead. I agree that Apple still miss a good Paint app.

  13. They rested on their Photoshop laurels until Apple introduced Aperture, then got off their asses to develop their own all-in-one post-production tool, Lightroom.

    The development of Lightroom began long before Apple introduced Aperture, but, as explained in this article, “in many respects, Aperture actually helped save Lightroom.”

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