Can't beat 'em?

The Proposed merger between Adobe and Macromedia marks a huge change in the landscape of creative tools, not least web development.

It's barely five years since Adobe and Macromedia were suing each other over alleged patent infringements - a battle that ended in a virtual draw. As such - and following the line "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" - the merger about to take place between the two companies makes sense. It draws together Adobe's print and Macromedia's multimedia expertise.

The down side is that prices may increase as competition decreases in the creative marketplace. Yet some sort of buyout was inevitable - and not necessarily between these two. With the impending release of a potential Acrobat killer as part of Windows Vista (previously Longhorn) and having long desired the technology behind Flash, Microsoft could have been a suitor for Macromedia. As could IBM.

And, whatever else happens, Adobe is the company that's done the most to develop a strong set of creative tools, particularly with its CS (Creative Suite) and CS 2.0 products.

While neither company has commented on the future of any of their products, now is a good time to assess what options could affect Web design in the future.

Will GoLive go west?

An excellent game that has emerged in recent months is spotting the weakest link in the creative software of both companies. As Tom Gorham so presciently remarked in last month's Imaging column, the game certainly looks up for Freehand. After all, it didn't even merit its own upgrade in the MX 2004 suite. Likewise, Adobe must be rubbing its hands at the prospect of getting its hands on Flash, particularly since it stopped supporting LiveMotion 2.0 in 2003.

The future of the firm's other applications is less clear, however. Fireworks is no match for the mighty Photoshop as an all-round image-editing package. But as a tool for optimising and generating Web graphics it easily stands up to ImageReady. On a different scale, it's not obvious what the relationship between Dreamweaver and GoLive will be.

That situation is slightly odd for a couple of reasons. First of all, Dreamweaver is as close as possible to a de facto standard for a Web-design tool - a kind of Quark for HTML. And yet, as the inexorable rise of InDesign shows, Adobe's ambition should not be underestimated in any creative field.

Unlike Macromedia with Free­hand, Adobe has made considerable investment in GoLive as part of its CS 2.0, particularly in terms of support for mobile authoring. This suggests the program has a future.

GoLive's best feature is its tight integration with the other applications bundled with CS - see FIGURE 1. The links with Photoshop have been appreciated for a while, but the real killer is probably its ability to repurpose material from print using InDesign. In this way assets can be exported as XHTML.

Combined with the asset management in Adobe Bridge, what GoLive indicates as part of the full suite is that Adobe is taking multi-platform publishing - from print to screen - very seriously indeed.

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