Adobe Systems—the well-known software company, creator of Acrobat, Photoshop, Postscript—do not create all their software by themselves. It is true that they create their own flagship products such as Acrobat, Illustrator, Photoshop, and Postscript. But they—like Microsoft—also acquired products from their competitors. Some notable acquisitions include when Adobe took over Aldus Corporation in 1994 to acquire PageMaker—the popular Windows desktop publishing (DTP) software—along with the TIFF file format, and when in 1995 they bought FrameMaker—also a DTP software—from Frame Technologies. The latest and biggest acquisition is in 2005 when Adobe acquired their main rival Macromedia in a stock swap valued at about USD 3.4 billion.
I notice there are at least two interesting stories related to Adobe’s acquisitions.
The Flash Story
Flash is a light weight multimedia application suitable for Web and mobile devices. Flash consists of two parts: the authoring tool (Adobe Flash Professional) and the player (Adobe Flash Player).
In case you do not aware, Macromedia was not the first creator of Flash. In fact, Macromedia had Shockwave as their multimedia application for the Web. The problem is Shockwave movies were often slow-to-download with the Internet connections back then. At the mean time, FutureWave—a small software company—had a drawing application product called SmartSketch. As many became aware of the Internet, in 1995 FutureWave decided to add frame-by-frame animation features to SmartSketch and re-released it as FutureSplash Animator for PC and Macintosh, which successfully challenged Shockwave.
FutureSplash Animator was originally offered to Adobe, but Macromedia got it in an acquisition in December 1996. Later, Macromedia released it as Macromedia Flash 1.0. Macromedia continued to develop Flash and their last release was Macromedia Flash 8 in 2005.
As Adobe bought Macromedia, Flash finally fell in Adobe’s hands. Starting from version 9, Flash was rebranded as Adobe Flash and the authoring tool was integrated into Adobe Creative Suite 3 as Adobe Flash CS3.
The FreeHand Story
FreeHand is a vector graphics drawing program.
Unlike Flash, FreeHand’s story was rather sad. In the beginning, FreeHand was created by Altsys but licensed to Aldus which released versions 1 to 4 under the name Aldus FreeHand. Aldus later was merged with Adobe along with all Aldus’ product lines—including FreeHand. Unfortunately, by that time, Adobe already had their own product serving the same purpose called Adobe Illustrator. Because of the overlapping market, Adobe returned FreeHand to Altsys.
Later, Altsys were bought by Macromedia. Macromedia released versions 5 to 11 of FreeHand with the Macromedia FreeHand brand. Macromedia used the brand Macromedia FreeHand MX to signify version 11. Since 2004, FreeHand didn’t get significant update since Macromedia favored Macromedia Fireworks and chose to leave FreeHand out of their bundled suite called Macromedia Studio 8. Though the intention of the two products were different—i.e. Fireworks for Web, FreeHand not for Web—most of FreeHand features were already incorporated into Fireworks, there were no needs to own both programs.
After Adobe’s acquisition over Macromedia, FreeHand once again returned to Adobe. But FreeHand’s future didn’t seem to brighten up. Adobe Creative Suite only included Illustrator and Fireworks while FreeHand’s users were allowed to upgrade to Adobe Illustrator CS3.
Morale of the story:
We have an idiom in Indonesian language saying: “Kalau Jodoh Tak Kemana”. I don’t have any idea how to say this in English, but it means that if something or someone is destined to be with you, it will return to you at last anyway.