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Is Macromedia "In Play"? Might Flash & CF Become Integral Parts of .NET Functionality?If you own Macromedia stock, a Microsoft t

Is Macromedia "In Play"? Might Flash & CF Become Integral Parts of .NET Functionality?If you own Macromedia stock, a Microsoft t

(December 23, 2002) - Rumors have been circulating in San Francisco since late yesterday that Microsoft Corp may be planning to buy Macromedia, Inc.

The San Francisco-based Macromedia, Inc., specializes in software that aids in the design, development, delivery, and display of Web sites and Internet applications, and its flagship "Macromedia MX" product suite includes two cornerstone products - Flash (graphics) and Shockwave (animation) - that any software titan would be proud to swallow up if it got half the chance.

Both Flash and Shockwave are already incorporated into the products of industry vanguards like AOL Time Warner and Apple; more importantly, from a Java developer point of view at least, Macromedia is the owner of ColdFusion MX.

To get some background on the rumor, and on the consequences for CFMX should it emerge in due course to be in any way well-founded, CFDJ talked with one of the four movers and shakers of the Flash developer community, Jens Christian Brynildsen, co-founder of FlashMagazine.com. We ran him to ground in his native Norway. "The income figures have been failing Macromedia lately and that reflects in its stock value," Jens Christian conceded, speaking from Oslo, "so a hostile takeover is definitely technically possible. Microsoft does however not have a good record vis-à-vis handling creative software like Flash. So, our guess is that even though this is possible, it will not happen."

In the UK, TheRegister.co.uk reports that (unnamed) "analyst sources" believe Microsoft covets Flash primarily because the vector graphics design tool and player was radically updated this year. An online article written by their San Francisco correspondent speculates that Microsoft might want to take over Macromedia to prevent further Java integration in the Flash Player.

But Jens Christian Brynildsen disagrees with this interpretation of the rumors. "I strongly doubt this would be possible," he contends, "as multi-platform support has always been one of Macromedia's strengths. J2EE is the foundation for Macromedia technologies such as ColdFusion and JRun." Java developer James F. Hurff, who recently evaluated Macromedia ColdFusion MX for IBM WebSphere, a Java application server that runs within a J2EE-compliant infrastructure, corroborates Brynildsen's view. "CFMX for WebSphere compiles CFML files (.cfm files) into Java classes and then executes them within the IBM WebSphere application server and VM," Hurff explains. "This functionality allows developers to run their existing ColdFusion applications within the J2EE environment."

In his research, Hurff says, he found that ColdFusion MX for WebSphere yields several key opportunities for Java developers. The IBM WebSphere platform overcomes what he sees as having been, historically, a limitation with the ColdFusion application server, "namely its close ties binding the developer to the Win32 environment."

A limitation that, if the takeover rumors are true, would return - in spades.

"A second interesting benefit of the CFMX environment," Hurff continues, "resides within application deployment. The only step necessary to redeploy a ColdFusion page is to save the new file to the server. The next time the file is requested from the server, CFMX automatically compiles the new page into bytecode and executes it. This hot deployment capability saves time, since the recompilation is handled automatically by the CF runtime environment. The execution takes place within the IBM WebSphere Java VM."

In short, this is a good example of RAD - rapid application development. With ColdFusion MX, a developer can simply copy the new CFML file into the appropriate virtual directory and - zingo! - immediately execute the code.

Unless, that is, Macromedia gets snapped up by a company that would prefer all this Java compatability to be superseded by synergies with the .NET platform.

More Stories By Jeremy Geelan

Jeremy Geelan is Chairman & CEO of the 21st Century Internet Group, Inc. and an Executive Academy Member of the International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences. Formerly he was President & COO at Cloud Expo, Inc. and Conference Chair of the worldwide Cloud Expo series. He appears regularly at conferences and trade shows, speaking to technology audiences across six continents. You can follow him on twitter: @jg21.

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Most Recent Comments
Julian Cochran 01/02/03 10:38:00 PM EST

Sun has about $4 billion in cash, versus Microsoft's $40 billion in cash and their capitalizations differ similarly. I disagree that Microsoft would be permitted to purchase Macromedia. As for Sun, there is no way - it just doesn't fit into their business model, they have to be completely focussed right now. I could possibly imagine ADBE and MACR merging at some time in the future, but I'd be very surprised. MSFT would benifit the most from purchasing (and disrupting) MACR, but I just cannot see that getting through courts.

Ron West 01/02/03 09:04:00 AM EST

I agree with Chris, A company like Sun would likely come to the rescue if a hostile takeover were to ensue. The Java community has a lot to gain from Flash remaining in the hands of a company tied to the Java architecture. Rumors are fun though, huh? :)

tallison 12/24/02 02:43:00 AM EST

I guess this probably would end up as legal and not any kind of monopoly issue because they probably didn't reference Macromedia in the previous lawsuit.

Since they were not specifically targeted in the previous legal action, the lawyers would probably argue that it's not applicable to apply the monopoly conviction when considering the legality of a macromedia acquisition. It's all in how you spin it.

I have yet to see anything that Microsoft has touched be anything other than messed up. Maybe they will buy Macromedia. But if they do you can fully expect that they will have every intention of leveraging it to maximizing there benefit in any markets available.

I think you are overlooking the value of Flash on cellular phones. Microsoft is making a huge push to get this market pulled from Verizon and a few others. Flash will simply allow them to leverage it better into their product line.

You need to start thinking about Microsoft in the same terms that they consider themselves. To think of them as a Internet based company is ignorant. They are out to acquire a piece of every single form of communication, media interaction, and information delivery.

They are in the Internet, Television, Game-Stations, Corporate and Personal Information Structures, PDAs. They are pushing hard to get involved in cellular technology and even vehicles.

With the introduction of Microsoft into the cars and phones, they will have a foothold on the home, office, person, and cars. I don't know that there will be much else left.

Christopher Stefan 12/24/02 02:37:00 AM EST

...also, it's a rumior that assumes Macromedia *wants* to be bought by Microsoft.

Even if MS is attempting a hostile bid, Macromedia may go looking for a white knight.

I could see IBM, Adobe, or Sun ending up with Macromedia in the end.

John Dalziel 12/23/02 09:13:00 PM EST

Actually, this isn't the first time this story has been floated. I remember
a similar flap on Dreamless and Ultrashock a year or two back.

That's not to say there's nothing in it - Macromedia's development tools could be useful to Microsoft. But buying the company won't buy you the hearts and minds of developers. Macromedia have built their business on being the platform-agnostic middleware. Take away that neutral position and you'd strip the company of its biggest asset.

John Dalziel
Resident writer, Flash Magazine

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