This is purely speculation. I have no inside knowledge into the possibility I present here other than hypothetical conversations with peers. Sean Power brought up the topic over dinner recently, which caused me to start thinking seriously about the realities of Microsoft buying Adobe. He blogged about it way back when Adobe acquired Omniture. At that time, I was at Forrester and when we got wind of the deal, we had an all-hands meeting to make sense of the awkward acquisition. Upon arriving at consensus, I quickly penned a missive about why the acquisition of the leading web analytics and optimization firm made sense for a creative software firm like Adobe. Yet, like most others, we had to squint at the deal to see any logic in it at all. Now it’s starting to become clear why Adobe shelled $1.8B to add some attraction to its offering for a much larger suitor.
Adobe controls big chunks of the digital customer experience. Specifically, they play a major role in content creation through the CS5 suite of products. While web developers aren’t necessarily building their global digital offerings in Dreamweaver, surely they are using elements of Creative Suite to do just that. Further, any document where the author wants to control its integrity will lock it down by saving it in PDF format. And now through the acquisition of Omniture, they gained the ability to measure and optimize consumer utilization of those assets as well as the web sites and marketing efforts of leading brands across the globe. We’re just starting to see the fruits of this curious marriage between the two firms in the announcements of tracking capabilities within the CS5 release. Yet, these tracking methods are not meant for the traditional users of Omniture’s set of highly robust analysis capabilities; they are designed for content creators and developers to gain insights about the digital assets they’re producing. I like to think of this as tricking people into using web analytics by not actually telling them that they’re using data to make day-to-day business decisions. Brilliant actually. This introduction of tracking capabilities within CS5 falls precisely in line with what my partner Eric Peterson describes as the bifurcation of the web analytics marketplace. Analytics at the low-end are offering information that is helpful (dare I say critical) in making decisions about business activity. At the top end are trained web analysts who crunch the data to tease out the insights and offer recommendations based on a holistic representation of data from numerous disparate sources. With Omniture Insights providing the analysis horsepower at the top of this scenario and CS5 empowering the bottom, all of the sudden, Adobe becomes an invaluable resource for enterprises that deliver services in online, offline, B2C, B2B or B2B2C environments. Now, let’s introduce Microsoft into this mix.
MSFT has labored [successfully] to own the consumer desktop with its operating system, indispensable productivity tools (MS Office), and not-so-universally, rich media with Silverlight. Not to mention that they’re still working diligently to capture consumers with Bing, MSN and a slew of other services pointed at end users. All this traction across MSFT properties gives them a lofty vantage point from which to monitor consumer behavior across digital channels. Adding a stack of ubiquitous software for content creation and some world class measurement capabilities may be quite attractive to the Redmond rotund. They’d immediately challenge Apple on a new level of customer intelligence and empower their enterprise customers with a whopping new set of capabilities. Despite the new consumer view to be gained from this possible acquisition, the real benefits are a nicely wrapped enterprise solution complete with: MS servers, a .NET framework, SharePoint, Dynamics CRM, Dynamics ERP, and a kitchen sink of bells, whistles and anything else you might want. Given the opportunity to deliver, measure and manage the customer experience at a really deep and integrated level seems like an appealing bet to me.
I won’t droll on about how or when this impending acquisition will occur; mostly ‘cause I have no idea. But I will hedge by saying that others suitors may actually line up before MSFT comes calling. Google for instance could parlay a nice entrance to the packaged software market and gain the ability to create, deliver and measure that largest advertising network on the globe. For that matter Apple may be strategically sparring with Adobe’s crystal palace in a deliberate attempt to soften their value. Swooping in for an acquisition after some fierce battling on the street wouldn’t be completely unheard of…now would it?