What Microsoft is up against in the designer market

According to an analyst, 80% of Adobe Creative Suite customers plan to upgrade to the next version within a year of its release. That's a lot of market traction for Microsoft to go up against. How can they make inroads into the designer market?

Adobe Creative Suite

According to BusinessWeek, an analyst at Jefferies & Co. raised Adobe from a "Hold" rating to a "Buy" rating based on a survey they did amongst potential buyers of Creative Suite 3 (CS3), the next version of Adobe's big designer suite. The survey found that 80% of the users of Creative Suite 2 plan to upgrade to CS3 next year. And roughly half are expected to upgrade in the first 6 months when the software is released.

80% in the first year. And CS 2 hasn't been around for all that long (it was released in late April of last year). And while I realize that Expression Studio isn't directly targeted at the kinds of designers who use Adobe's Creative Suite, if this survey is correct, it's proof of the intense brand loyalty that designers tend to have.

Expression Studio

The two main things Microsoft should focus on are the designer-developer workflow and asset portability. Expression Studio does the first very well (at least in theory). It was designed to work very well with Visual Studio and the effort they've put into helping WPF and WPF/E developers work with designers creating the experience looks to have paid off. The next step is to enable those people who have invested in other technologies to use their assets in the new Expression Studio. Things like the SWF2XAML plugin go a long way towards this, but not being able to integrate closely with the Adobe products makes it more difficult.

In the end Expression Studio is targeted at a different kind of designer, one who works very closely with web developers. Adobe's products span print as well as web, and a good chunk of those 80% have to be people who are laying out magazines or developing print advertisements. But it still is indicative of how much loyalty designers have. Expression Studio seems to be focusing on a niche (the web developer-designer integration), and if they can be successful in that niche, they can start to gain some traction.