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Apple Buy Adobe?

Robert X Cringely thinks so.

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It's all about the dongle, says PBS personality Robert X Cringely. The wee gadget used to plug into the back of a PC. Or its equivalent. Expensive apps used to exploit them for copy protection. They're not used much anymore today. Or are they?

Cringely says they are - by Apple at any rate. Where Apple's computer hardware in effect represents the full equivalent of the dongle. Cringely suggests Apple sell their software at cost and profit solely on hardware sales. To run the software you need to first purchase one of their computers - your dongle.

Content Creation & Distribution

Cringely says the essence of Apple's business model is content creation and distribution. He recounts the story of the Apple employee who questioned Steve Jobs about the company's policies in the enterprise market. Jobs told him 'IT' wasn't really Apple's business and maybe he should seek a career elsewhere such as at IBM or HP.

The employee was told Apple were in the business of 'content creation' with iLife, FCP, et al to create technology to power enterprises such as graphics, media, and entertainment.

No finance, no government, no military. Just graphics, media, entertainment. Which they've been doing since they invented the DTP industry with Adobe over twenty years ago.

And now they add content distribution - eg to creation with QuickTime you add distribution with iTunes.

Global Dominance

Seeing Apple concentrating on content creation / distribution and continuing to practice hardware lock-in Cringely is convinced Apple will buy Adobe - and thereby achieve global domination in their market. Adobe's CEO stepped down without warning and Warnock is ready to step down too. Cringely also thinks Apple can make Adobe more of a cross platform company.


One of the long standing issues with Adobe software on OS X has been the company's refusal to use the OPENSTEP development environment. Adobe supposedly as much as possible use the same source trees for all platforms and judged the move to Objective-C/Cocoa as too expensive considering the paltry returns with Apple's low single digit demographic.

For the longest time their flagships weren't even 'Carbon': they were PEF executables in Carbon wrappers.

And that of course presents snags with the move to Intel.

Despite the origins of the company (and a booster investment from you know who) the bread and butter today are nowhere near Cupertino - they're in Redmond. And Adobe are always threatening to finally 'pull the plug' and stop supporting Apple's nonexistent market.

Yet losing Adobe is probably more potentially catastrophic than losing the PPC - two losses caused by the same refusal to 'expand' and respect 'cross platform'. Apple were able to suit Intel; who could they suit if Adobe drop them?

Apple might have to buy Adobe just to keep the latter's software alive on their platform. Not to say it's going to turn out as richly successful as Robert X Cringely suggests but still and all. Even if the venture goes totally tits up it might be better than the present alternative.

On the other hand if Apple actually took on the task of revamping Adobe's - according to rumour again - rather messy source base [especially for Apple platforms] in Objective-C/Cocoa one might have something.

And considering they've more or less mastered the art of writing Objective-C/Cocoa applications that run on Redmond's OS they're basically breaking down a barrier to entry for Windows. People who need the software to start with on Windows can at any time switch to Apple hardware seamlessly.

The Market That Never Was

And this can be great news for Apple. It's not necessarily great news for anyone else. If Apple indeed as many have noted shun 'IT' where the serious programming is happening there's very little legroom for the OS X ISV. There's very little chance the platform will expand and thrive.

Today there are next to no programming courses in Objective-C/Cocoa in the world; the few companies who used to be in the business have mostly moved onto other things. All the while the Windows training and consultant markets thrive.

The market won't get any bigger if the programmers can't learn the platform and they're not going to ever learn the platform if their companies don't see any point in it. The market isn't big enough and sooner or later Apple are going to eat up all the successful ISVs anyway. And with precious few software titles of any import no company can possibly see a reason to switch.

The software market for Apple's OS X is - if anything - deteriorating rather than improving. There is absolutely no momentum anywhere.

But there are people out there - users and developers both - who were looking for a secure alternative to Redmond's Windows. The kind of alternative that fit into their workplace, their workflow, and their LAN. And they've by now invested a lot of money in a company that's systematically led them down the garden path.

Should Apple refuse to share the world at large will still need to find an alternative to Windows.

See Also
End Game: Why Apple Will Buy Adobe

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