What if Apple bought Adobe?

What if Apple bought Adobe?Ok, hear me out. This isn’t speculation on a deal that I have heard via 9th connection or something. Nor is it an idea that has been confirmed by either of the companies actions. All it is a question.

Sometimes though, how the question came in to being can be as interesting as the answer. Allow me to elaborate.

At the turn of the millennium, there were three massive names in the world of design (in its widest possible sense of the word) software; Adobe, Macromedia and Quark. Each company was really best know for their stand out products. Their unique selling points. Adobe had Photoshop, Macromedia had Dreamweaver and Quark had Quark Xpress. Each was unique in what it could do and how to an extent they were used simultaneous to create the first digital and print unified work flows. (Yes, Macromedia was also famed for Flash and equally Adobe with Illustrator.)

As time and tide came, Adobe moved their full package with the first Creative Suite (CS). This matched nicely with Macromedia who also bundled their software. Well, those in the industry know exactly where this went. Buy the time CS3 was launched in 2007, Adobe had bought Macromedia and absorbed their products in to Adobe’s new package. All of this happened while Quark were trying to figure out if they wanted to lay out documents or web pages, think that they were one in the same.

Quark now sits in the corner, a shadow of its former self as it found its market share eroded by Adobe with how rapidly InDesign was developing and just how deeply integrated it was with the rest of the products that everyone already used. So effectively, this leaves one company in a monopoly position, controlling the worlds design professionals.

You know who else used to be in that position? Apple.

The first Macs and especially the Mac II were loved by the typesetting community and started the age of desktop publishing. (No! Not you Microsoft Publisher! Turn around and sod off! We’re talking about proper programmes here.) I’ve seen the documentaries while at design college and I’ve seen and used the devices my self and I can appreciate how important these devices were to design.

So, where has this question come from? Apple.

Not directly, as I said before, but indirectly through the companies actions. Apple was getting quite a bit of flack at WWDC 2012 for not upgrading the Mac Pro to anything more than a minor spec bump with only the highest end models not available from other manufacturers. Apple, the designers company, seems to be forgetting the people that were there in the early days.

Tim Cook has said that a completely refreshed Mac Pro is due in the new year, which may move to appease the Pros in the room. But the questions, ‘What if Apple bought Adobe?’ that’s not about hardware (that’s just context), it’s all about software. Steve Jobs once said at one of his All Things D sessions that the hardware they make are beautiful boxes for OS X. The launch of the App Store with iPhone OS 2 heralded an environment where software was bought by a user for a fair price. It’s spurned an entire industry and has been semi-replicated in other platforms.

When Apple introduced the Mac App Store for Snow Leopard (Mainly for Lion), they brought the same environment to the desktop. It’s quite clear that the ‘iOS-iffication’ of Mac OS X is happening at a gentile pace to get users used to the idea. A stark difference to Microsoft who are jumping in with a whole new product  in October – like it or lump it from the guys in Redmond it would seem with Windows 8.

Apple are softer than that and are getting people to move to their grand plan of personal computing, where the device changes to be what the user needs, not the user changing to use the device. How does this work with Adobe? It’s about the software.

Thus far Adobe have not launched their main products in the Mac app store. they have a few iOS apps and Elements available, but you can’t get Creative Suite. If you could it would be the most expensive app / set of apps in the store. With Gatekeeper in Mountain Lion, Apple is trying to protect users from unsafe 3rd part applications. Ones that have not be checked and tested by Apple themselves and deemed proper for their users. Apple also take their cut. Adobe don’t want to lose 30% of every sale of their most valuable products to Apple. The company that helped publicly kill mobile Flash.

Adobe have their subscription model with Creative Cloud, but I wait to see how well that plays with Mountain Lion and importantly Gatekeeper. It is possible that in the future, Apple could not allow applications that are not from their store to be installed on a Mac. This would be the same as iOS today. This unification of the user experience wouldn’t sit well with people that use the third party apps. So how best to get round this? Buy Adobe.

Apple buys Adobe

Imagine it, if you will, the combination of iPhoto’s usability with Photoshops power. Pages being able to export for commercial print with spot colours. Adobe’s technologies would support Apples existing products and enhance them. Pro versions would still be sold, same as iMovie and Final Cut co-exist. Also, this would make the whole thing cheaper. Apple could drop the prices of the Creative Suite, tie it in with iCloud for storage, versionning and workflow and then as a kicker allow seamless syncing between all of a users devices and companion apps.

There would be a potential negative here though. The more Apple became the designers powerhouse again, they would most likely make the best Apple exclusive, thus demanding users switched from PCs.

There you have it: What if  Apple Bought Adobe? You have pro apps on pro hardware as a seamless, well priced position in a market Apple once owned and still support their single source dream. This is also the only real way it could happen, as Microsoft wouldn’t fit this scenario at all and Google aren’t even playing in this field.

Could Apple do it? They have $117 Billion in bank. Adobe is worth about $6.1 Billion and has a market cap of $14.76 Billion. Apple could buy them without breaking a sweat.

As I said above, this is a ‘What if’ moment. Not based on any information from sources, just the exploration of an idea.

Have an idea for a ‘What if’? ask in the comments!

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