ADBE: Nearly there

The recent news that Adobe Creative Suite 4 will not be 64-bit for the Mac is taken as a blow to the Mac. It will be 64-bit for Windows on 64-bit machines running a 64-bit Windows OS (which is a surprisingly small number of people). 64-bit Windows XP runs slower than 32-bit Windows XP so … Continue reading “ADBE: Nearly there”

The recent news that Adobe Creative Suite 4 will not be 64-bit for the Mac is taken as a blow to the Mac. It will be 64-bit for Windows on 64-bit machines running a 64-bit Windows OS (which is a surprisingly small number of people).

64-bit Windows XP runs slower than 32-bit Windows XP so the benefits are not likely to be seen there and the number of people running (or able to obtain XP-64) is a rounding error on the Windows sales market. In truth, the only advantage to running XP-64 was to be able to address more than 4 GB of memory with a single process but for many the disadvantages with DirectX and .NET outweighted the advantages.

With Windows Vista, every Vista DVD (with the exception of Starter) ships with 32-bit and 64-bit versions – and if it’s not there, you can buy it from Microsoft for a small additional fee. This means, in theory, if you install with a 64-bit processor, you’re going to get a 64-bit operating system. For home users, this means being able to address between 8 and 16 GB of RAM. For the “Pro” versions of Vista it means being able to support more than 128 GB (not that there are many machines that can fit that amount of RAM in their cases!) The 64-bit version of Vista still has compatibility issues with hardware and software but in the next few years it will be standard. What this means for most people is that when they buy a new PC, they’ll get the benefits of 64-bit software.

Adobe’s problem with CS4 is that it’s 32-bit software written using the Carbon APIs. Apple has been shopping Cocoa as their next-generation framework around for a decade now and still Adobe (and Microsoft) laboured on with the Carbon ‘compatibility’ API because it represented the least amount of work for them. The plan originally was to make Carbon 64-bit compliant but in WWDC in 2007, this plan was trashed. Carbon is old, archaic and it’s too much work to get it to 64 bit when they could keep it at 32 bit and put extra work into Cocoa to make it fabulous. But this buggered up the plans of Adobe and Microsoft and as a a result, Officd will likely remain 32 bit and Adobe’s Creative Suite will not be 64-bit until version 5 which is a long time away.

Is this a big deal

First, lets dispel the idea that 64-bit software is considerably quicker than 32-bit software. In many cases it is slower. But being able to address a lot more RAM – or even being able to reduce the reliance of disk at all and keep entire apps, especially those regularly used, in RAM, is a bit step forwards. Heavy Photoshop users routinely throw around images that are multi-gigabyte in size and being able to load the whole thing into RAM is a huge potential speed boost (never mind having Photoshops own Virtual Memory system eclipsed by fast RAM rather than slow disk).

The gains enjoyed by moving to 64-bit Photoshop on Windows may be reduced by the fact that Vista is a dog (link, link ) and will already reduce performance (though you can turn off the eye candy in Vista and it improves performance considerably). And the fact that, well, it’s Windows which brings along with it an entire world of suck. (This is my opinion). Having to use Windows every day saps my enthusiasm for computing as a whole (and I can say this after using Windows every day for the last 9 months in the day job going from using Mac OS X for years in the day job). Windows just isn’t a lot of fun.

So my opinion is that, performance wise, this won’t make a lot of difference.

Who’s to blame here?

I think that miscommunication between Apple and Adobe is to blame. Adobe knew about Cocoa and how it was the future. Apple should have communicated earlier that it saw no future for Carbon beyond the first 10 years. It’s a stupid mistake to make for two companies who have so much in common and who could be great together and this brings me to a point which has been laboured a few times in past years.

Apple and Adobe could do with working closer together for the benefit of both. It would help to reduce the frustration of everyone who’s had to work with Adobe’s implementation of Acrobat on the Mac platform. It might even bring Flash/AIR to the iPhone/iPod touch platform.

I lay the blame at both their feet for not working together. There’s definitely issues with the companies as they both seem to be angling to be a forerunner in the online application space. Apple is trumpeting HTML, Javascript, AJAX and their own media types. Adobe is trying to get Air, Flash and PDF everywhere. But there should be enough crossover that these companies, which have a long and chequered history, to work together. The adage “The enemy of my enemy is my friend” is certainly true when both companies consider Microsoft. Microsoft is attacking Apple in operating systems (mobile, portable, desktop, server) and media (Windows Media versus Quicktime) and attacking Adobe with Silverlight (as an alternative to AIR/Flash) and their online document formats (which challenge PDF).

Adobe is a relatively small company. They have under 7000 employees They had enough clout to buy Macromedia and gain control of Flash. Adobe’s market cap (the market value of their corporation) is just over 20 Billion this morning.

Why is this relevant?

Apple has about 20000 employees. They’ve got a lot of cash in the bank ($18 billion at last count) and will likely pull in another billion profit at the end of this quarter. With Cash and stock, they could buy Adobe and still leave themselves with a few billions dollars as a buffer against hard times.

What would this mean?

Look at Apple’s recent acquisitions? They bought Macromedia’s Final Cut product pre-1999 and killed the Windows version, releasing the code eventually as Final Cut Pro and iMovie. They bought Astarte in 2000 and released iDVD and DVD Studio Pro. They bought eMagic in 2002 to get Logic and killed the Windows versions. They bought Nothing Real to get Tremor and Shake and killed the Windows versions. Apple isn’t afraid to spend some money to get strategic technology and then kill off a product or three in order to retain loyalty. There were a lot of Logic users who were pissed at Apple’s decision to kill Logic for Windows and I’m sure there were a few who were annoyed about Shake (though decidedly less due to the eminence of Linux in that space).

Wouldn’t an Apple acquisition of Adobe seem to make some sense?

It would give Adobe access to hundreds of Cocoa-proficient engineers with access to the bowels of CoreImage. It would accelerate the development of Mac compatible software development within that company. It would mean that Flash on Mac might not suck as much. And it would likely mean that not only would Adobe stop making Craprobat Reader for Mac, they may rethink the PDF strategy of the company and make it less of a second class citizen on the Mac. Yeah, it’s my opinion.

It would aggravate a lot of Windows users who use/pirate Photoshop on Windows and that market is very large but considering the roadmap they could present, it would then make sense for Apple to do a license trade-in for the Mac-only version. Buy a Mac and trade in your Adobe CS for Windows license for a free Adobe CS for Mac. That would nearly halve the cost of moving to the Mac and get Apple a load of good kudos in that space at relatively small amounts of lost revenue.

This is not a time to be meek.

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