Friday, April 22, 2005

No competition to see here...

Adobe has just bought Macromedia. Well, technically it's a merger; however, in their FAQ, brilliantly translated by John Gruber at Daring Fireball, the Macromedia brand will disappear.

Those of you who are not graphic or web designers will probably, at this point, be going either, "Who?" or "So what?" but it is actually rather bad news.

Macromedia's most significant products are Freehand (a vector graphics application, which I also use for all of my DTP layout), Dreamweaver (an HTML/CSS WYSIWYG web editor), Flash (used for making vector animations) and Fireworks (a web-orientated vector/pixel image editor).

Adobe are known for Photoshop (the de facto standard professional pixel editor), their vector image editor, Illustrator (also known as "Frustrator"), DTP layout programme InDesign, vector animation programme LiveMotion, and HTML editor GoLive.

Now, anyone can see that there are overlaps in this portfolio; however, broadly speaking, Macromedia has a much stronger web presence than Adobe, who are generally considered to be dominant in the graphic design field.

Each of these companies have their detractors and rabid supporters, but most people use applications from both companies. Nearly everyone uses Photoshop for pixel editing; however, there is pretty equal split between Illustrator and Freehand for vector editing. Broadly speaking, DTP is a competition between InDesign and another company, Quark.

Only it isn't.

At an Adobe seminar–at which they were mainly demonstrating the nascent InDesign–some years ago, a straw poll was taken of what apps the attendees used. Nearly all of the freelancers or small designers used Freehand. Why? Because Freehand was flexible enough to not only design vector logos in, but also to do all of your page layout.

This means far more flexibility, since you can copy and paste your logos–rather than having to import them as (uneditable) EPS files–and the only things that you have to import is your pixel images (as EPS, TIFF or whatever). This, is turn, would make it much easier to collect together all your files when sending files to a printer, but it gets better. Because you can change all texts to vector outlines, you don't have to bother finding fonts or worrying about font licenses, nor need you worry about accidental text reflow.

In terms of page layout, Freehand still does stuff that no other app does. One of these features is ability to have different sized pages in the same document: this is really useful for stationery (you can have letterhead, compliment slips and business cards all in one document, which makes it far easier to keep up to date) and for brochures with stepped page sizes, for instance.

Add to all of the above Freehand's small file sizes (especially when compared to Illustrator), its "Collect For Output" option, its massive range of export options and text handling tools as good as any other DTP app, and you have a print design application that more than rivals any other on the market.

Freehand will, of course, cease to exist as Adobe champions Illustrator over its hated rival. Besides, if you could do all of your page layout in an Illustrator/Freehand hybrid, you wouldn't need to buy InDesign, would you? Still, there are problems far greater than my desire not to see my favourite application mothballed, although they are related.

Some people like Illustrator (mainly those working for big agencies, who can afford to buy Illustrator (£450) and InDesign (£650), some like Freehand (mainly small guys who like the fact that they only have to spend £300 instead of £1100); but at least we could choose. It seems that choice will no longer be on the menu.

Macromedia and Adobe competed against each other; now there is going to be no serious competition whatso-fucking-ever. I predict that this lack of competition will lead to:

  • a stagnation in innovation

  • rising prices

  • sacked staff

  • massive bonuses for directors, and trebles all round

  • a right royal shafting for the punter

There's my take on it. I may be biased, but take my word for it, all you designers out there, we can only hope that either the shareholders or the regulators block this merger...

No comments:

NHS Fail Wail

I think that we can all agree that the UK's response to coronavirus has been somewhat lacking. In fact, many people asserted that our de...