In October 2010, Steve Ballmer met with the CEO of Adobe the apparent discussion was around how to compete with Apple head-on.
Having been an internal lead on Adobe competes within Microsoft, it got my wheels turning and I tried as much as I could to get some insight into what that meeting was actually about. It was a very weird meeting given the heated competition both Microsoft and Adobe have had over the past 5 years (almost as big as Apple competes).
Adobe have lost some staff to Microsoft so my first thoughts were that maybe the ex-employees are looking to patch a bridge and discuss some ways to work together in terms of how Flash and say XBOX etc. could work together (there's a huge casual games market up for grabs that uses Adobe Flash).
Today however my spidey senses got all tingly when I saw the new Adobe HTML5 Edge tool sneak peak via Adobe Labs.
This tool is the missing piece in what I call the HTML5 all up story - i.e. it is fine to hack together add-ons to existing tools for HTML5 coding compliance but it needs a designer story.
The more I looked at the sneak the more I started to think about that meeting and how it could have possibly gone down.
If Microsoft wants to sacrifice Silverlight on the web to gain momentum in the mobile device market than overall, the threat matrix for Adobe drops quite significantly. In that, really the only threat to Adobe Flash is around how it sockets into a mobile device such as Android, Windows Phone 7 and so on.
If I was in a meeting with an executive again and I was talking about the SWOT for an Adobe, partnership I would lead in more with opportunities that lead to strengths rather than threats / weakness in this partnership.
Flash has always thrived at being a parasite on many hosts so it is not as if this is new dangerous territory for it to take such technical dependencies on. The product also as I stated before has a lot of already existing Casual Games / Widget Apps already made today that could be ported over.
Downside is they do not have the developer base - design yes, developers no.
Secondly, Microsoft has failed at attracting the design market. We spent millions and came up short every time as whilst I use Microsoft Expression Blend daily its one hard cumbersome tool that even most .NET developers won't touch let alone designers. It just failed.
The Expression Blend team is now parked in the archive bay and I wager Silverlight 5 additions will likely be its last shipment for the product. If that being the case, sure the tool failed at its charter in attracting the devigner audience to the .NET codebase(s) of tomorrow but the problem didn't go away - if anything it just got worse.
If you are going to then tell designers of tomorrow to build HTML5/JS or even Silverlight vNext solutions for Windows8 and beyond - how do you get them to combine design and development skills?
Adobe have the design audience locked, it's the only company in the world where in every design agency there is a design tool owned by them either bought or pirated. They make a tidy profit from it as well.
Flash now can produce iPhone and Android based solutions and it would not actually take much to get that solution into Windows Phone 7 given the Silverlight/XAML parity - in fact, some devs in Microsoft have shown that getting Silverlight to cross-compile to a swf isn't farfetched, as it would seem.
Putting Adobe Flash or at the very least using the same iPhone cross-compile methodology for Windows Phone 7 is a massive win for both. You get a new developer audience on both sides for one and lastly the design audiences can also play their respective roles within the tools they feel the most comfortable with.
Winning as the Sheen would say.
That all being said there's a flaw in this theory, it positions Adobe to be way to powerful in the device discussion and the last time Adobe/Macromedia held dominance in this space it took Silverlight to wake them up - you don't want that again, trust me.
How do you keep Adobe in check whilst competing with Apple at the same time as if you create a universal app that works on all devices then this if anything can fuel iPhone's appstore submissions more so.
That is a good thing as it fuels competition for one and both Apple and Microsoft do not have to necessarily fund large amounts of dollars in both tooling and marketing. Adobe wins because it gets more hordes adopting its tooling but at the same time, it cannot survive unless there's competition between Microsoft and Apple. Google is the cream on the cake, as it then has to dovetail into the same competition stream – thus a forcing function for their Android story.
All Microsoft has to do is sacrifice Silverlight for the web (video will always be a big problem for both to contend over just like QuickTime vs Windows Media Player) and Expression Blend.
Did I mention XAML team is disbanded and the Expression Blend team has been put in park?
It rather works that way for the console market.
Note: I have no inside goss on this one so this is me just spit balling based of my own conspiracy theories.