Microsoft buying Adobe? Call me highly skeptical

Summary:I'm seeing folks leap to the conclusion that Microsoft's CEO Steve Ballmer met with Adobe's CEO Shantanu Narayen to talk about Microsoft buying Adobe. Do you see this happening? I sure don't.

The New York Times is reporting that the CEOs of Microsoft and Adobe recently met. Supposedly on their agenda: Apple.

I get that. That two of the vendors who've had problems getting their interactive media technologies approved for use on the iPad and the iPhone are chatting seems possible, if not probable. A Flash-on-Windows Phone 7 discussion? I could see it. Possible complaints to legal authorities launched in tandem? Sure, another plausible coffee-klatch topic....

But now I'm seeing folks leap to the conclusion that Microsoft's CEO Steve Ballmer met with Adobe's CEO Shantanu Narayen to talk about Microsoft buying Adobe (based on a passing mention that such an idea was on the Ballmer-Narayen "let's team to beat Apple" agenda. There's this paragraph in the New York Times' report:

"Another person with knowledge of past talks between the two companies explained that Microsoft has courted Adobe several years ago with possible acquisition discussions. But the deal never moved past informal talks as Microsoft feared that United States Department of Justice would likely block the deal on antitrust grounds."

Call me highly skeptical. Microsoft has been downright conservative on the acquisition front, as of late. The few acquisitions the company has made in the past year -- only one of which Microsoft acknowledged publicly (AviCode) this week -- are small companies. Microsoft officials have said repeatedly the company is not looking to buy bigger companies; any new acquisitions are likely to be small and supplemental to the company's existing businesses.

I guess you could argue that Microsoft might want to buy Adobe to either kill or own Flash. But can anyone explain why Microsoft might want to buy Adobe otherwise? Adobe shares are surging, based on the possibility, right now. But I just don't see it happening -- especially at a time when Microsoft is trying to figure out Silverlight's positioning in an increasingly HTML-based world.

Update: UBS analyst Brent Thilll said UBS thinks a Microsoft-Adobe deal "would make strategic sense, but is also unlikely." He noted that the CEOs of the two companies talk regularly, as Adobe is one of Microsoft's largest ISVs. But potential antitrust hurdles, a potentially high price, and Microsoft's "spotty" track record in digesting large acquisitions are all factors working against such a deal happening.

Topics: Banking, Enterprise Software, Microsoft


Mary Jo Foley has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications, including ZDNet, eWeek and Baseline. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008). She also is the cohost of the "Windows Weekly" podcast on the TWiT network. Got a tip? Se... Full Bio

Contact Disclosure

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

The best of ZDNet, delivered

You have been successfully signed up. To sign up for more newsletters or to manage your account, visit the Newsletter Subscription Center.
Subscription failed.