Microsoft and Adobe casual gaming partnership– Casual love or just gaming each other?

I often get many theories floated past me from staffers, usually it is a case of mind candy, and ways to figure out the chaos within Microsoft – kind of like reverse detective work?

Today, I got a great piece to a puzzle I have been trying to put together for quite some time. It comes mainly from a meeting that Microsoft and Adobe CEO’s had a couple of years ago – in secret kind of.

The two meeting for a catch-up was always unlikely, and when those two get in a room there is an agenda, now the question was always – what was that agenda

The working theory is that Silverlights death was confirmed in that meeting, that in order to regain favor with the Adobe crowd you had to basically show your intent has been to knife the baby – get rid of your competitive threat and at the same time work out a strategy into getting the hordes of design audiences at Adobe’s disposal to give Microsoft another look – despite the brand fail of internet explorer / office clippie and many many many more.

The inside gossip I got today was that Microsoft are working together with Adobe to close the gap on the casual gaming market, in that Adobe’s always owned this market online via Flash for many years and to go after it, despite the XBOX brand’s success would simply take a lot of investment.

Instead, Windows team getting into bed with Adobe to produce a tooling story that compliments their future platform strategies around casual gaming makes more sense as it wins on two fronts. The first being is Windows team aren’t keen to own the tooling strategy for this area, its basically to hard and requires a separate war chest to dominate. Adobe is keen to shift away from being the platform story (notice why Adobe is less platform focused these days and gone back to basics on tooling?) and more about owning the tooling that goes with platform(s).

Adobe working with Microsoft also provides a partnership elsewhere; they both get to cross-pollinate with the developer and designer adoptions. If you can get developers to buy, your tools to work with designers both parties win. As Microsoft is desperate to win hearts and minds on the design bloodlines, it is why metro is the default look as despite its marketing fluff; it is simply a case of ascii art meets public toilet signage – idiot proof.

It is not enough and despite the proactive technical audiences raising glasses in favor of the solid color screens known as metro, it still is not sustaining the creative momentum it desperately needs to retain the interruption required to seed a bigger customer base.

Looking back on BUILD conference, I also found it interesting that XNA was not mentioned as much is it could or probably should have been. It like Silverlight was left with a lot of ambiguity around its futures specifically how casual gaming audiences could benefit from Windows 8 in the future.

In fact, sitting down to play with the current scraps of beta that was given to us via this conference and focusing on Window 8, under the hood it’s still murky as to how the overall new platform is going to work with regards to games.

Not only that, but the reality that plug-ins as we know it aren’t going to be friendly within Windows 8 Browser(s) it’s also a bit of a question mark around how Adobe can retain success here going forward. In fact, if Windows 8 does go ahead, it’s basically a case of Flash being shut down the moment that platform gets traction and before you throw the anti-trust argument on the table, remember that no longer applies – the Windows team can push out Silverlight over night to every machine world wide if they wanted to (not as optional either) as legally speaking, nothing is preventing this today?

That was also our intent in the Silverlight team, when the consent decree sunset kicked in we had strategies around how we would get ubiquity worldwide in quite a rapid way – I mean in nine months we pushed Silverlight out to half a billion people under a lot of tight constraints. Today, nothing …despite constraints gone?

Silverlight had to be knifed but why, and WinRT is not enough there has to be a better story on the horizon.

The windows teams are not really interested in tooling or mini platforms, they typically want a locked in way of life in that you buy Windows and THEN the free market opens up.

If the Windows team have any chance of success of having an AppStore model much like the iTunes/Apple story they need to provide a lot of free market opportunities to folks who aren’t already exclusively tied down to Apple (content wise as well as other categories).

Apple have made it clear Adobe has no future on their future platform stories other than tooling for designers to create Objective-C experiences and also they can install such tooling on the Operating System – but that’s it, beyond that Steve Jobs was quite open about his dislike for Flash.

Flash and HTML5 are also becoming quite a topical conversation in the Adobe communities, specifically the FUD around the future of Flash – Yes more Flash is dead posts arriving to an RSS feed near you.

Adobe have to figure out a strategy here around retaining control as in the end despite them spending a lot of time and energy now on tooling vs. their vision of the platform dominance for mobile devices (CTO Kevin Lynch used to always beat that war drum, today, not so much? He was ahead of his time in thinking and cunning strategies to position Flash but in the end, it never stuck).

Microsoft have to bridge this gap and until you see a casual gaming story unfolding at the next BUILD something or someone has to provide the ingredients here to make that work, as in the end this is the carrot that gets you in part Windows 8 adoption with consumers – especially given the Windows 8 in its current form has no level of excitement from Enterprise or Medium Business industries.

Today, I was told a scrap of info but the more I step back and piece things together the more I begin to cast a theory, and this post is a current working model of it.

I could do with more information, care to share?

XNA, where’s that heading next? What is Microsofts casual gaming story in the new Windows 8 world? Why no Silverlight focus on Casual gaming? HTML5 can’t handle it on its own that’s for sure…

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  • “Consent decree sunset” doesn’t make MS using its Windows monopoly to extend advantage into other markets any less illegal. If you had strategies to do this, you should be aware that enacting those strategies could very well have gotten the company back into trouble, as it would almost certainly have been abuse of monopoly. To the extent that MS can avoid this these days, it’s largely a product of the modern US regime running primarily based on political whims rather than rule of law. This is a time when both major parties agree that the US president can summarily execute US citizens on foreign soil as judge, jury and executioner.

    However, it is amusing to read of executive machinations, selling things that they don’t own, leveraging piles of stuff they can’t actually grasp. Adobe “owned” the casual gaming market? Adobe didn’t make any games that I’m aware of. They own a platform that many past and current games depend on. That doesn’t mean they have particular control over the future of those games. This scenario you’re sketching here looks incredibly like symbolic disconnect: there are a bunch of sentences formed out of certain symbols in certain relationships, like the aforementioned “Adobe owns the casual gaming market”, that is true if you look at it in a certain light, but the sentence is then reinterpreted with subtly different values for the symbols – “owns” in particular – and some strategic fantasy is concocted, with major ramifications for various sections of the MS empire. “Owns” at two levels of indirection is reinterpreted to gain the powers of one level of indirection, as if Adobe itself had made the games.

    In summary: what you write gives good reason to short MSFT and ADBE, but unfortunately MS in particular is too large to expect stock price signals to properly reflect its various incompetencies with any degree of speed.

  • Well today the anti-trust dominance isn’t as clear cut as there are so much anti-compete behavior happening today that in reality abusing the monopoly of Windows is quite watered down – different time than back then, so it would take a lot to push Microsoft back into the consent decree agreement again – despite extensions.

    Adobe do own the casual market, in that the ones creating the games that go into this market have to adopt Adobe not just in tooling but also feature reactions. Owning the market by controlling its output to me is the same as the studios owning the game – i bought the game, do i own it? …degrees of context but the parent in that hierarchy is Adobe for Flash based games – which lives on a plethora of devices/desktops today.

    When you dictate the terms of a platforms future, you own it.

  • I wasn’t disagreeing that things are different now; in fact, I explicitly mentioned that I don’t believe large US corporations (banks especially, but MS too) live under the rule of law any more; action only occurs if it is a political outrage, rather than a legal outrage.

    I’ve written some apps for Windows. You think MS owns them? I’ve written some Java apps too. Worked out real well for Sun. The parent in the hierarchy is usually too far removed. These emperors without clothes are laughable.

  • The key words are “written for…” yeah, Microsoft owns them in terms of their deployment strategy. You abide by their rules and laws of engagement. You can cross compile for other platforms but you’d live by their rules aswell, really the word own holds a contextual relationship around governing the end result’s abilities to execute on Intellectual Property. You are limited and empowered at the same time by Microsoft ownership. Think of ownership as an adjective vs verb which is what you appear to be fishing from.

  • Here’s a metaphor for how I see it: owning the platform is like owning the carpet underneath a house of cards. The guy who built the house of cards is certainly dependent on your existence; but that doesn’t mean you can move the house of cards somewhere else by moving the carpet. Houses made of cards are fragile and depend on the platform being static to a very large degree. People who own the carpet, thinking they can control what has been built on top of it, are deluding themselves; the more they try to move it, the more they cause what is built upon it to collapse. Because the houses of cards are so fragile, they must be continuously be repaired; if the platform isn’t stable, they’ll simply build again elsewhere. The value of past houses of cards is low; maintenance is a constant cost.

    MS is very much a platform company. I understand how they think; and I can see how you don’t think twice about moves as evil (in the Google sense) as abuse of monopoly, having gone through that culture. Lock-in rents that accrue to the platform provider have long been a source of immoral, and sometimes illegal, profits. People are by and large wise to that game, though, having been schooled in it so well by MS. HTML5 isn’t there yet, not by a long way. But in the long term, it and its successors are very much the platforms to aim for.

  • I hear what your saying and I understand it, I just disagree with it. Look at Apple for prime example of “If you dont like the way we roll, get lost” mentality. The amount of friction they put in front of development teams is quite high in comparison and they aren’t ones to waiver to public opinion on the subject either. They control both the supply and demand channels with a lot of force and whilst Microsoft may not be out in the open about their “ownership” or ability to control the outcome of what devs do and don’t do, but its there hidden and one that has a lot of years of retaining control over. …ever wonder why the .NET CLR never made it out of the windows platform? despite huge interest in doing so and was one of the founding principles behind Silverlights birth…. yet never happened?

    Microsoft are never one emotion, some guys I worked with are candidates for the Nazi party rebirth whilst others are ready for world peace army…it depends on the manager, metrics and what career financial gains the two earlier stand to gain with a dominance… I have sat in compete meetings where if the DOJ were in the room at the time, we’d probably be all hauled off to court to explain our terminology much like the 1998 deposition with Bill Gates…There are other meetings where staff have a desire to solve real problems that actually benefit humanity …it just is a mix.At the end of the day though the garden walls do exist, you when you deploy get the false sense of being the master of your own sandbox but make no mistake you get such an artificial high because the owners of the platform allow it….. To take your analogy/metaphor further sure, owning the carpet of cards is one thing…. now this house has to dwell inside a suburb, and its Microsoft who are you owners of the land/governance around that dwelling… you own the house, but you abide by laws of the country..

  • 721

    XNA’s dead.