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Microsoft vs. Adobe: The Rivalry Heats Up

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Want to watch a great boxing match? Just take a seat and watch the back-and-forth between Adobe Systems and Microsoft. I wrote about this fight-without-an-end last year, but now it seems the punches are being thrown with more intensity.

No surprise: Like two aging gladiators, the two software companies have managed to outlive and beat most of their peers. At face value, the fight is about Flash vs. Silverlight. Look deeper and the tussle is over not just online video but about cloud computing, rich Internet applications and mobile phones.

Microsoft has been jealous of Adobe’s Flash, a multimedia technology that Microsoft so desperately coveted that it tried to buy its then-owner, Macromedia, without much success. Instead, Adobe bought Macromedia in 2005 for $3.4 billion. Flash’s growing popularity as a core technology for online video, and Adobe’s efforts to extend it to the web applications market, hasn’t gone unnoticed by Microsoft.

The barons of Redmond countered with Silverlight technology last year. They have upped the stakes by buying their way into the market — a time-tested strategy for the software giant.

First it signed up MLB to get some mainstream usage. Then came NBC’s Olympics coverage online that led to a boost in the number of people using Silverlight to watch video. Today, the company announced that it’s going to invest in American Fork, Utah-based Move Networks, adding an undisclosed amount of funding to the startup’s $46 million Series C round.

It will be money well spent: Move’s customers include large TV companies such as FOX, CBS and ABC. They use Move’s technology to deliver higher-quality video to web watchers. As part of the investment, Move will “now support Windows Server-based encoding, Microsoft codecs and Silverlight DRM.” So now those companies can use Microsoft’s back-end products, which can replace Adobe’s server-side offerings, and halt the growing influence of Adobe’s DRM. In March, Move signed a deal in which it integrated its video distribution technology into Microsoft’s Silverlight technology.

Behind Microsoft’s spending spree is the realization that Adobe is a legitimate threat when it comes to cloud applications. When I spoke to Kevin Lynch, Adobe’s CTO, he talked at length about various Adobe technologies that could be used to build interesting cloud-based applications, that could be used on new emergent Internet devices. Adobe’s CoCoMo can challenge Microsoft on “collaboration.” Lynch also pointed out his desire to turn Adobe’s Flash into a vital component of the mobile ecosystem, something Microsoft so sorely desires.

Microsoft’s true intentions and the extent of the rivalry are best summed up in this comment by Scott Guthrie, corporate vice president of the developer division.

Silverlight 2 delivers much more than just media scenarios. One of the key advantages of Silverlight 2 is that it includes a cross-browser, cross-platform version of the Microsoft .NET Framework, specifically optimized for rich Internet applications (RIAs). That means you can build Silverlight applications using .NET languages.

Recommended & Related Reading:

* How Microsoft is fighting a war on three fronts.
* Another fight…. Microsoft vs Adobe.
* The GigaOM Interview with Ray Ozzie, Microsoft’s Chief Software Architect.

Photo via Flickr courtesy of Markhillary

6 Responses to “Microsoft vs. Adobe: The Rivalry Heats Up”

  1. Cloud Computing & SAAS Etc.: What’s Different Now = Access, Cost

    I agree that there are parallels and similarities between cloud vs mainframe, browser vs terminal, SAAS vs service bureau etc. What is different now is that more types of organizations, including individuals, are able to access computing resources without big investments in hardware, software etc. This is made possible by the internet and movements such as open source. As for techno hype, it is true that the tech industry has been using it for a while. Having said that, discerning buyers are able to identify what is real from what is not. Marketing/advertising works just as well and is therefore used in the tech industry as it is in other industries.

  2. Thomas Goddard

    You know who you can thank for the “Cloud Computing” buzz? The business suckers falling for the “No Software” logo that Sales Farce touts around its entire site. What most consumer don’t realize is that they’re getting taken for a ride that’s very difficult to get off.

  3. This is exciting news and will make for an interesting Q4 08/Q1 of 2009 as competition between these two companies comes to a head. I think it is worth pointing out that Microsoft did *not* invest in one of the P2P startups… Move Networks is more “traditional” in the sense that they support the existing online content delivery ecosystem and do not challenge the norm. Given recent issues at BitTorrent (ala Valleywag)… Move Networks seems to be a safe bet on the next 1 to 3 years of online video while policy makers sort out P2P issues.

  4. Kudos to the Cloud Crowd for Re-Inventing the Wheel!

    One thing 30 years in the IT industry has taught me is that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Another is that the only memory we seem to access is short-term. Yet another is that techno-marketeers rely on that, so they can put labels like “revolutionary” and “innovative” on platforms, products and services that are mere re-inventions of the wheel … and often poor copies at that.

    A good example is all the buzz about “Cloud Computing” in general and “SaaS” (software as a service) in particular:

    Both terms are bogus. The only true cloud computing takes place in aircraft. What they’re actually referring to by “the cloud” is a large-scale and often remotely located and managed computing platform. We have had those since the dawn of electronic IT. IBM calls them “mainframes”:

    The only innovation offered by today’s cloud crowd is actually more of a speculation, i.e. that server farms can deliver the same solid performance as Big Iron. And even that’s not original. Anyone remember Datapoint’s ARCnet, or DEC’s VAXclusters? Whatever happened to those guys, anyway…?

    And as for SaaS, selling the sizzle while keeping the steak is a marketing ploy most rightfully accredited to society’s oldest profession. Its first application in IT was (and for many still is) known as the “service bureau”. And I don’t mean the contemporary service bureau (mis)conception labelled “Service 2.0” by a Wikipedia contributor whose historical perspective is apparently constrained to four years:

    Instead, I mean the computer service bureau industry that spawned ADAPSO (the Association of Data Processing Service Organizations) in 1960, and whose chronology comprises a notable portion of the IEEE’s “Annals of the History of Computing”:

    So … for any of you slide rule-toting, pocket-protected keypunch-card cowboys who may be just coming out of a 40-year coma, let me give you a quick IT update:

    1. “Mainframe” is now “Cloud” (with concomitant ethereal substance).

    2. “Terminal” is now “Web Browser” (with much cooler games, and infinitely more distractions).

    3. “Service Bureau” is now “SaaS” (but app upgrades are just as painful, and custom mods equally elusive).

    4. Most IT buzzwords boil down to techno-hyped BS (just as they always have).

    Bruce Arnold, Web Design Miami Florida