According to a New York Times Bits blog report, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen met recently to discuss joint strategies to defeat Apple's iOS platform. The story said a merger of the two companies was discussed.
In the Bits blog post, Nick Bilton reported that Microsoft had considered a purchase of Adobe in the past.
One person familiar with the discussion said the two companies had talked about the blockade that Apple’s chief executive, Steven P. Jobs, had placed on Adobe’s Flash software for its handheld devices and whether a partnership by Adobe and Microsoft could fend off Apple, which continues to grow at juggernaut speeds.
In the past week, many technological and strategic issues were raised about the Web platform strategies for both companies.
At the recent October Microsoft Professional Developers Conference, Mary Jo Foley reported that there was little mention of Silverlight, Microsoft's Web content platform and competitor to Adobe Flash.
But there were plenty of mentions of HTML 5 and Microsoft’s commitment to that technology, not only in the next version of its Internet Explorer browser, but also as the glue “facilitating a level of independence and innovation between the back end and the front end” (as CEO Steve Ballmer said during an October 28 keynote address at the PDC).
Over on the Adobe Flash front, the Ars Technica review of the new MacBook Air reported that running Flash killed battery performance. Shocking!
We did find (quite by accident) that Apple may have more reasons behind not installing Flash by default other than the stated reason of ensuring that users always have the most up-to-date version. Having Flash installed can cut battery runtime considerably—as much as 33 percent in our testing. With a handful of websites loaded in Safari, Flash-based ads kept the CPU running far more than seemed necessary, and the best time I recorded with Flash installed was just 4 hours. After deleting Flash, however, the MacBook Air ran for 6:02—with the exact same set of websites reloaded in Safari, and with static ads replacing the CPU-sucking Flash versions.
Adobe and Apple have gone back and forth about Cupertino's support (or lack of support) for Flash. Apple executives including Steve Jobs complained publicly about the performance of Flash and recently the company stopped providing the Flash runtime player as a standard installation in Mac OS X Snow Leopard.
In the spring, Jobs pounded Flash in an public letter. He said Flash was a performance killer.
Although Flash has recently added support for H.264, the video on almost all Flash websites currently requires an older generation decoder that is not implemented in mobile chips and must be run in software. The difference is striking: on an iPhone, for example, H.264 videos play for up to 10 hours, while videos decoded in software play for less than 5 hours before the battery is fully drained.
When websites re-encode their videos using H.264, they can offer them without using Flash at all. They play perfectly in browsers like Apple’s Safari and Google’s Chrome without any plugins whatsoever, and look great on iPhones, iPods and iPads.
Now, there's the Ars Technica review to bolster Apple's technological position.
And like most Mac owners, I can report that most of the problems with Safari are with Flash. How do I know? The crash reporter says so.
But let's face it. How can our confidence in Microsoft and Adobe be strong – together or on their lonesome – when it appears that they lack the competence to hold secret meetings? That's another thing that Apple certainly does right: the cone of silence. If they can't get that right, how will they perfect a coherent Web platform strategy and/or technology that will work successfully without killing battery performance mobile devices.
Another related question: Is Apple the only mobile system vendor that seems to understand that when the battery is dead, all performance stops? That seems to be where Microsoft and Adobe should start their discussion.