The twists and turns this industry takes.

It's been an extremely interesting past week. I and a few of my colleagues decided to check out the Adobe MAX 2008 conference to see what the other side has to say about the future of the web (much like their folks come to MIX conferences).

I've got a bunch of notes and a lot of what I saw was simply Adobe reacting to Microsoft's position in the market. We've stated workflow and collaboration was the key driver for success, Adobe appears to agree to the point where they've dedicated the bulk of this year to focusing in on our MIX07 style showcase wins, it was almost like watching MIX07 all over again only less sizzle in terms of innovation.

Many will comment on what they think has happened, and I'm not really inclined to discuss it as it's simply a case of Adobe's pride being rebuilt here, and having listened to their XD Team talk about the struggles they've had to overcome in emulating the same concept we built 2 years ago+ in WPF (New York Times), clearly for me puts it all in perspective.

Microsoft somehow appears to be leading Adobe's innovation path(s), and I'm shocked that they downplayed their core strengths (Design) to simply react to ours. It's clear from what I've seen that Adobe really need to gain developer share in today's market, given their investment and the market the way it is, I'm just not convinced that they will yield a positive result in terms of replenishing their CS3 customers, especially given CS3 was only released not too long ago. Price fatigue anyone?

Nothing says they're not worried by holding a press conference to state as much, telling the press false stories and then devoting your entire annual event to "one-uping" Microsoft. Reactive much?

I found the overall conference to be somewhat poorly organized, in that sessions mostly required you to register before hand and when you finally fought your way to the computers to register, it was simply a case of hit or miss with the sessions themselves. In that it was a constant product placement and not much in terms of differentiation (i.e. a few of my friends whom attended made comments like "is this on repeat mode or what?").

Not to mention the food/beverages were like watching a fading Oasis come and go (500+ people lining up for coffee from one vendor late in the afternoon is just bad planning).

This for me was disappointing as I had always wanted to visit MAX pre-Microsoft and post-Microsoft, and glad it wasn't via my own funds (ie flight from Australia to US is expensive and had I paid for this out of my own pocket, angry wouldn't be the word). I'd rate WebDU to be a much better event for the same topic imho.

It wasn't all bad though, I found the conference party to be a nice touch, given the climate changes we have a visit to the museum was great work. I also found a few sessions worthwhile, especially Lee Brimelow's Adobe AIR one (Breathing AIR into your Brand or something along those lines). Lee's a funny presenter and he nailed their messaging really well, to the point I was almost convinced it would work 😉 hehe...almost Lee! 🙂

I also found the Photoshop 3D additions really impressive, given I'm doing a lot of hobby modeling these days in Maya, I can't tell you how annoying it is to unravel UV Textures just to add texture / depth to them. I think in Photoshop CS4 this will change, but haven't had a chance to tinker with CS4 yet so I'll reserve my judgement on what was promised until after I play with the new additions to Photoshop.

As for Adobe staffers in general, they were mostly quiet this year around, there was a few Product Managers that did walk up to us Microsoftee's keen to pick a fight or two, but I found giving them a roll of the eyes and turning your back on them to work, as it simply stole their thunder, that and it was funny to watch them process the whole

"err..what do i do now..act like you saw someone you know and proceed to walk towards that general direction.."

It's somewhat disturbing as well to hear a lot of presenters etc bait the audience into disliking Microsoft, one in particular was the guy trashing Windows on stage only to hear silence and the sound of his own laughter. I guess they're not ready for that kind of aggressive behavior just yet, but I'm sure with posts like these it's bound to build momentum.

Looking forward to the next conference Adobe puts on, as I'm sure we'll see MIX08 showcase wins making an appearance the next MAX09 keynote 🙂

Comments (14)
  1. Joe says:

    I wouldn’t say that Design was a MS core strength.  The expression suite has a way to go yet.

    Programming platform and cloud/mesh infrastructure are your core strengths – I think Adobe have given up those fights.

  2. Mike Henke says:

    Great post.  Nice to read other views on the conference.

  3. Garry Trinder says:


    I agree, Developers are our obvious core strength and in my post i wasn’t stating Microsoft had a core strength in design, but outlining Adobe has and yet they’ve focused more on developer than design this time round, even though i’d say the bulk of their new features are in designer orientated tooling.

  4. @Mike: yes and what a surprising new perspective it was.

  5. Cisco says:

    Microsoft’s position in the market is finally realizing that the experience matters and quickly trying to begin wooing designers into drinking their kool-aid. Seeing the graphics for MIX and the marketing for Expression Blend and the ZUNE, etc is like watching Dr.Evil try to show his son Scott he’s "hip and with it". No one really is buying it. And since the next generation of websites and apps depend on great UX with innovation, not just technology alone, they have a LOT of catch up.

    Adobe not only has a history with designers, they understand how to take their feedback and integrate it into the next version of the application. Now as a UX designer I can see through the fact that the latest MAX was marketing heavy, but I think it’s pretty transparent and not a shifty method to keep industry share.

    Also, I’ve used Expression Web, Designer and Blend. I am always open to new products or ways of doing things. I honestly don’t think Microsoft consulted with a single real designer on this product.

  6. daniel clarke says:

    Once again you demonstrate you stupendous ability to ignore reality. What frickin world do you live in. To even think that M$ are in anyway leading the development evolution of Adobe products is frankly insane.

    M$ have NEVER innovated a single worth while product – nor will you.

    How you can claim that your core strengths are Design bemuses me. 99.999999% of all creative design professionals wouldn’t touch a M$ product if their life depended on it.

    once again mossy you’ve delt out more verbal diroeah  !

  7. Aral Balkan says:

    The confusion arises from how you’ve worded the following sentence:

    "Microsoft somehow appears to be leading Adobe’s innovation path(s), and I’m shocked that they downplayed their core strengths to simply react to ours (Design)."

    It reads that Microsoft’s core strength is design. A less confusing version would be:

    "Microsoft somehow appears to be leading Adobe’s innovation path(s), and I’m shocked that they downplayed their core strengths (design) to simply react to ours (development)"

  8. Garry Trinder says:


    Valid point, will make adjustments as it clearly shows writing blog posts in the early AM hours is not a good idea 🙂


    Develop some new material, that old M$ has never innovated crap is totally played out. One day you’ll do some actual research on the subject and find we innovate quite a lot, but you’re just not ready for the concept of an original thought just yet… i’ll be waiting when you do.


    We’re not trying to take over Adobe’s Design market at all. We’re simply moving our technology to allow .NET customers to take advantage of all things user experience. We’d love to work more closely with Adobe (whom is technically a partner) on integrating with Adobe CS4 more, but clearly they see us as major threat and are increasingly getting aggressive towards Microsoft.

    In which case, it will simply be a case of building a bridge to Adobe where we see it’s possible and then look to fill in the gaps where Adobe seem to ignore .NET folks.

    Keep in mind, .NET developers didn’t adopt Adobe products before WPF/Silverlight so to be absolutely fair, we’re filling a gap more so with these than trying to "kill Adobe". It’s Adobe whom seem to forget this, and are so hell bent on spreading the M$ Is Evil message to their customers.

  9. discorax says:

    As a user of both Adobe and Microsoft technologies I was interested in this post mostly because I heard some people claim that MS was saying their core strength was Design. That was laughable at best, but now actually showing up to read this post I find that it was taken out of context. Microsoft has give me (a web developer) a very rich set of tools to do my job with VS2008, Silverlight, .NET, LINQ…however, they have yet to hit the mark with tools to help me deliver rich animations/displays.  I’ve been working for the past two months on a WPF application that has shown some serious limitations to animation and code based manipulation of elements on the stage. Bottom line, we had to change our designs to address the limitations of the MS software. However, the WPF application made it extremely simple and efficient to deal with large amounts of data on the back end. Large data sets, sorted, processed, parsed, all at the blink of an eye and easy to access it was the display that kept us from reaching our goals.

    My opinion, Adobe has built their technologies with Designers in mind, and MS has build theirs with Developers in mind…the race is now who can get their products to the middle first. I have to give the edge to MS here because in my opinion, dealing with data in the back end is much harder (as Adobe is finding out) than getting that data to display in slick ways.

    If I had to build a complex RIA today, I would likely use .NET for my back end and Flash/Flex for my front end plugin…so there you have it.

  10. Gary Barber says:

    Okay let me say first off I’m not a developer.   I’m squarely focused in the design front of the industry.   However of late I have noticed that Adobe is just going down the old Microsoft road.   Too often they have been making the assumption that designers are "happy" with there products and will gladly fork out about $800-$1000 for a featureless upgrade.   They have also been defocusing on the remaining developers they have.  

    The only reason designers are staying with Adobe is there is a distinct lack of viable alternative of products.   The current Microsoft expression products are a good first cut for a dev community, but they are developer centric.  

    In some quarters on Adobe there appears to be a need to hang onto the old way of doing things. The old circa 2000 marketing.  

    Both Adobe and Microsoft need to step back and have a good look at UX space and stop taking too much advice from the usual product Fan Boi base if they want to expand.  

  11. Garry Trinder says:

    110% agree with you Gary, i think we do need to step back more and look at this whole picture with more sobriety in our compete thoughts.

    I’d be curious to see your thoughts on improving the design pieces to Expression, in that where would you like to take it going forward?

  12. TheScratchyBeaver says:

    Both Adobe and Microsoft own great products and I just wish we all could get along in unity as we tip toe through a vast forest of daisies. *weeps*  

    I appreciate both companies and have a great deal or respect for them. For design, media and rapid development needs I’ll stick with Adobe and for OS needs I’ll stick with Microsoft. Love vista BTW, it’s secure and I haven’t had a single malware infection since install. I feel that Vista is a major improvement over XP in terms of interface and security. I think that Microsoft’s Vista reputation got a bad rap because of hardware vendors that didn’t supply adequate drivers soon enough for the new OS.

    Also, in response to scbarnes quote “In which case, it will simply be a case of building a bridge to Adobe where we see it’s possible and then look to fill in the gaps where Adobe seem to ignore .NET folks.”.  I’d like to ask since when did .NET implement the ability to integrate native ColdFusion CFML code out of the box?

    Suggestive read below.

    Adobe definitely hasn’t ignored the .NET folks.



  13. Garry Trinder says:

    Actually the CF bridge to .NET isn’t all that great. I’ve spent a good part of my career as a Coldfusion developer (still use it for and its pretty limited in its approach.

    Macromedia did have .NET remoting and actually spent a great deal of time interoping with .NET but since the Adobe/Macromedia merger they’ve essentially ignored the .NET developer.

  14. Garry Trinder says:


    I agree, I’d love nothing more than for Adobe & Microsoft to tone down the politics and focus more in on the products, but clearly they still see us as a major threat:

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