Update: Is Apple setting its sights on Adobe? | Cult of Mac

Update: Is Apple setting its sights on Adobe?

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Filed under: Pure, Wild Speculation.

John Gruber, writes today in Daring Fireball, an article about Adobe CS4 and the fact that while it will be 64bit on Windows it will only be 32Bit on the Mac. He writes (as usual) a simply wonderful analysis on the topic (well worth the full read), pointing out that lack of Carbon support in Leopard is making it difficult for Adobe (as well as some other cross platform vendors) to develop applications for both Windows and the Mac using the same code base.

John Gruber, Daring Fireball:

… the degree to which Apple pulled the rug out from under Adobe’s feet at WWDC 2007 last June. When Leopard was first announced at WWDC 2006 nine months prior, it included full 64-bit support for both Carbon and Cocoa.64-bit.

Carbon wasn’t promised to be coming “sometime”, like with, say, resolution independence. It was promised for 10.5.0. And it existed developer seeds of Leopard up through WWDC 2007 had in-progress 64-bit Carbon libraries, and Adobe engineers were developing against them. Several sources1 have confirmed to me that Adobe found out that Apple was dropping support for 64-bit Carbon at the same time everyone else outside Apple did: on the first day of WWDC 2007.

If Apple had shipped Leopard with the 64-bit Carbon support promised at WWDC 2006, Photoshop CS4 would run in 64-bit mode on the Mac.

I’m not rushing right out to get my tinfoil hat, but this coupled with the new Aperture plug-in framework, really starts to make me wonder. The only question which remains is how might Apple augment its current suite of products to more fully take on Adobe (remember, in the software space, Apple grows as much by acquisition, as by innovation).
My bet, they acquire Corel, but I’d love to hear your ideas.

32 responses to “Update: Is Apple setting its sights on Adobe?”

  1. Snafu says:

    I think most of Apple’s app development and purchase moves have had to do with filling perceived holes in the Mac software ecosystem or conceiving entirely new categories of software (of course, once it gets started it intends to be competitive in a given category). I don’t think Apple needs to dethrone Photoshop, and I suspect killing Carbon64 and the whole Leopard and iPhone near-misses shows Apple being somewhat depleted system programmers-wise, actually. Also, I guess that, after the transition to Intel and the completion of these projects, Apple can allow itself to set these kinds of development requirements (even if I doubt making things that harder for big multiplatform software houses is that smart).

  2. Amy says:

    NO!! NOT COREL! They can’t taint something as beautiful as a Mac with such terrible software!

  3. Jeff says:

    Gruber makes a very well-reasoned argument that this isn’t any big plot on anyone’s part, but merely the result of 2 companies doing what’s best at any given moment. Sometimes, sh** just happens.

    So good job on quoting him. He makes a lot of sense. Where you lose me is where you then take the opposite approach and wonder if it WAS done on purpose. Well, no. You linked to a great article explaining why this isn’t the case. I believed it. So, sorry, but I think your theory has no substance.

  4. Brian says:

    I’m not sure Apple needs to buy Adobe, but I think they could do a far better job with their assets than Adobe makes of them. Apple is building a newer, larger campus. By the time they are needing to move in, they could probably get Adobe for a lot less than they are worth now.

  5. leigh says:

    Jeff,

    Thanks for the comment. We agree on one thing, John’s article was particularly well done and insightful.

    The only thing I will add, is that after nearly 20 years as a professional strategist advising fortune 100 companies, they rarely do anything “accidentally” (this is especially true of companies run as autocratically as Apple), and that indented as well as possible unintended consequences are usually evaluated pretty closely.

    So is my thesis that Adobe is specifically targeting Adobe? Drama and literary license aside, not really, more properly, I believe Apple sees a market segment square in the middle of their core niche, that they’re now choosing to enter into. The fact that this market is presently dominated by Adobe notwithstanding.

    Thanks again.

  6. John says:

    Well, there’s always the possibility that Apple is actually considering the Adobe take-over that people have been suggesting for the past few years… Apple has nearly enough cash on hand to buy Adobe outright so it’s not a huge stretch. However, I’m not sure it would really be the best move. Especially since Apple will want to change the interface to a more “Pro App” look which will likely upset a lot of users who have become familiar with Adobe’s interface (there were people upset about the interface changes in CS3).

    On the other hand, Corel isn’t doing too well and they’re pretty cheap at the moment (Apple has billions more in cash than they’d need to buy Corel). So, that is certainly a possibility. But, keep in mind that Corel doesn’t really have an application that can compete head-to-head with Photoshop. Painter is designed for painting and it does that exceedingly well. But, in terms of photo manipulation, it falls far short of the mark. Even Paint Shop Pro: Photo isn’t quite there. But, yes, I think Corel would be the most likely target for acquisition, if that is indeed what Apple is planning on doing.

    One downside to Apple purchasing Corel is that they’d probably end WordPerfect, WinDVD, Ulead Video, etc. So, Windows users will be stuck with either open source (which most users don’t know about) or Microsoft and Adobe, who already have a significant market share in their respective markets. Though, Apple will probably see that as a good thing as it might help users see the advantages of iLife and iWork and make the switch to the Mac. So, that might even be an added incentive for Apple.

  7. JP says:

    Adobe products are overpriced and overcomplicated. It’s about time that a terrific software company is taking on Adobe.

  8. Roger says:

    In my early computing days I worked on PCs with Corel v1 thru v6. After changing to the Mac I had still a number of customers using Corel and I used the Mac versions thru v11.

    If Apple bought Corel they would have to rewrite everything from the ground up. I doubt it would be worth it as the Corel stuff is pretty old and very buggy. The reason Corel would sell cheap is because it isn’t worth much. Apple doesn’t need a Photoshop, inDesign, Illustrator, and certainly not an Acrobat. Apple can just keep adding to Aperture to get what they want and then they don’t have to write Adobe’s applications for the Windows crowd. If they bought Adobe what would they do about the Windows market? They would not want to give that to MS.

  9. Bob says:

    I am a long time Photoshop user and once used it professionally. I continue to use it, as I am a serious hobbyist photographer. While I still use a number of its power features because I am accustomed to using them, if I decided to, I could buy a bunch of Nik tools and just use Photoshop as a Nik plugin “container” so to speak. I could do this and probably enjoy a BETTER and QUICKER workflow than I have now. I could get seriously interested in an Aperture that accommodated Nik and other such plug-ins.

    There is code in Photoshop dating back to the early 90’s. In general, their apps make a terrible mess when they are installed (inflicted) on a system and you can see by the files in the application package and strewn around the hard drive that much of it is made for Windows and ported to OS X in a way that looks haphazard and messy. It’s about time Apple or someone made ’em think a little different.

  10. Peruchito says:

    Apple has done this before with Final Cut, mostly because Adobe dropped the ball with Premier.

    i think (and hope) if Apple makes a Pro app of iWeb… even though it would be a slap to Adobe’s face, i think Adobe in the long run, will benefit from the competition.

  11. DWalla says:

    Please dear heaven…. make it true. Adobe=the new Microsoft…. they haven’t innovated a thing in 10 years.

  12. Bill Olson says:

    If we are going to mention Apple and Corel here, I think that the best IP they have is WordPerfect and to a lesser extent Quattro Pro.

    They do have a database though … and Bento is too light weight even for me and I would just like to use it to keep track of my golf scores. It does that. It does not allow me to do stats though. I’m a very amateur golfer (around 100) and amateur (about the same proficiency as a) stats guy. I’ll have to stick with spreadsheets for now.

    Back to WordPerfect. Corel has done their best to screw WordPerfect up since buying it from Novell who didn’t do much of anything with it, but it is still my favorite Word Processor by a looooong shot even though I stopped upgrading it at WP12 and can only use it work on my LoseDoze computer.

    I would love to see Apple by WordPerfect for Corel and put Apple’s spin on it as long as they stay true to the “spirit” of WordPerfect when WordPerfect was a company. I’m not talking about text based but the ideas behind why they had it work the way they did. Brilliant. Especially compared to MediocreSoftware’s Word.

  13. Jeffsters says:

    People love this sort of thing for the same reason we love “palace intrigue” in old novels. Apple does NOT have its sights on Adobe. While the two compete in some areas Adobe’s products are also highly complementary and in markets that today Apple has no interest in competing. Call it coopetition!

    Anyway as for the 64 bit carbon issues this was nothing more than a part of leopard that wasn’t up to snuff and dropped to meet the larger schedule. There have been some challenges that would mean a re-write of other parts of the Carbon API and Apple just feels their efforts are better served focused on the cocoa future of OS X. The reality is this is a simple development vs. benefit decision and nothing more. Apple has no desire to push people to Windows so the decision was not taken lightly and anyone that thinks Apple wants to alienate a major segment of their customer base to one day release their own graphics suite is smokin something I could use some days.

    Sign me…a product manager…of… ;-)

  14. Thomas L. Ferrell says:

    Apple might consider contributing to the development of the Gimp photo editor and make a native OS X binary that has lots of extra features. With a free and sophisticated competitor to Photoshop, Apple could be in an enviable position in the graphics industry. A move toward powerful freeware could give Mace sales a timely boost, enhance their reputation among the Source Forge crowd that could contribute lots of help, and guarantee that users would always have the latest and greatest. Lots of us do not buy new Macs due to the high cost of buying new professional software. I’ll bet money with anyone that Mac sales would grow even faster than at present if Apple were to seize this opportunity. If this route is not practicable, perhaps Apple and Adobe could agree to a joint effort on porting Photoshop and enhancing it for Mac users in return for a discounted price to Mac users.

  15. imajoebob says:

    Apple should tread lightly. Microsoft has alienated (i.e. screwed) so many “partners” they’re now forced to buy entire companies just to use a niche technology. If Apple uses the same 500 pound gorilla strategy to take over Adobe’s market, fewer companies will work on OS X programs. Running your strongest supporter for nearly two decades out of business is not a great idea.

    Like OlsonBW, I’d love to see Apple pick Up WordPerfect. Not Corel, a dysfunctional mess, just WordPerfect. It’s still the best word processor out there, and the old v12 of Quattro still beats the snot out of the latest Excel. Pair these two with Keynote and you’ve got a serious alternative to MS Office. Consider how advanced WP is in formatting, graphics management, charting, and integration with Quattro. Add to that the philosophy of including all the features so everyone is able to use a single version (and can grow with the program), it even feels more like an Apple product than Word.

    Many law firms still use WordPerfect because of it’s phenomenal ability to document and track changes, and the (continued) ability to work in the formatting view. When you need to make serious documents that can truly have life or death consequences, you need WordPerfect. If you’re writing a 7th grade English paper, Word is probably fine.

    And don’t forget, Corel developed a version for Linux, so they already have the basic framework for an OS X version.

  16. Sagan says:

    I think the acquisition of Adobe is a good move for Apple for two simple reasons:

    1. Guarantees that Adobes products are update and compatabile in the OS X space.

    2. There is always that perceived threat that MS will pull Office for Mac. This gives Apple similiar leverage in the creative space. Owning the popular Acrobat, Flash, DreamWeaver, Photoshop, and Illustrator. Pretty impressive. Neither company would withdraw from each others space because there is too much revenue involved. Remember, the bully loses his power when he senses your not scared to fight.

    As to the question of postmerger, Apple should let Adobe be its own company independent of Apple. Perhaps, some smart collaboration like merging flash and quicktime.