Microsoft Could Buy Adobe and Pull the Entire Creative Suite off the Mac
Last week the New York Times reported that the CEOs of Microsoft and Adobe met secretly to discuss a possible partnership between the two software giants. Rumors have been flying since then about a possible Microsoft purchase of Adobe. The tensions between Adobe and Apple have been well chronicled here at No Film School, and such a purchase could potentially allow Microsoft to make Windows a superior creative platform -- simply by discontinuing the Mac versions of Photoshop, After Effects, Illustrator, InDesign, and a dozen other Adobe applications.
As Wired notes, such a move would also allow Microsoft to more directly address Apple's takeover of the mobile space, by bolstering Adobe's flash platform on Windows Phones. But Windows computers have been generally regarded as inferior machines for creatives -- rightly or wrongly. Part of this is because Microsoft has no viable equivalent to Apple's highly successful iLife, which does much to usher in the perception that Macs are better for creative projects (since it ships with every new Mac). Acquiring Adobe would bolster Microsoft's bundling ability (Adobe makes consumer versions of most of their pro apps, denoted as "Elements" -- Photoshop Elements, Premiere Elements, etc.) -- but would also give Microsoft a way of directly competing with Apple on the pro side (Adobe's Premiere Pro, After Effects, Soundbooth, and Encore compete directly with Apple's Final Cut Pro, Motion, Sountrack Pro, and DVD Studio Pro).
Adobe's $15 billion valuation would be, as Wired puts it, "petty cash" to Microsoft: it's certainly possible from a financial standpoint. Here's what I wonder, though: if Microsoft were to buy Adobe, you can bet they'd have a vested interest in making Photoshop (and the rest of the suite) Windows-only. Taking Photoshop, Illustrator, After Effects, InDesign, and a dozen other applications away from OS X would obliterate the Mac as a creative platform. Yes, Apple could develop their own competitors, but version 1.0 of an app like Photoshop (for which Apple has no direct equivalent at present) would be nowhere near as mature as a mainstay like Photoshop (which is currently in version 12).
While it's financially possible, antitrust regulations would likely prevent Microsoft from purchasing Adobe outright. Microsoft isn't nearly as powerful as they once were, but regulators would certainly step in with serious concerns; a partnership seems much more likely. However, in the same way that Microsoft develops and releases Office for Mac as a separate (and handicapped) suite from the Windows version, they could do the same with Adobe's Creative Suite.
It's unlikely that the Microsoft-Adobe meeting will result in a one-fell-swoop move like an outright takeover (and a yanking of all Adobe products from the Mac platform). However, a purchase or a partnership could have implications for Adobe's applications on Macs.
Let's say that Microsoft did buy Adobe, however. The following hypothetical question is for Mac users: if Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Acrobat, Flash, Dreamweaver, Premiere Pro, After Effects, Soundbooth, and Encore were all pulled from the Mac platform, would you switch to Windows?