As noted on Slashdot, The Register is running an article in which they state that Microsoft “is believed to have trained its acquisition crosshairs on Macromedia” in the hopes of out-flanking Java.
At this point, the story is still speculative, and as we are in the midst of the holiday season, no one from either company was available for comment. I tend to avoid commenting on stories such as these as I prefer to keep the knee-jerk reactions to a minimum, but this prospect is rather frightening to me and to many in the Web Development community.
Macromedia produces many amazing tools, most of which are available for both Windows and the Mac platforms. Some, like Flash are available for Linux as well. Flash, which is a true cross-platform and cross-browser development environment is poised for explosive growth as it prepares to jump to cell phone screens.
In addition to Flash, Macromedia produces several other major product lines including ColdFusion, Dreamweaver, Director and HomeSite (the functionality of which is being rolled into Dreamweaver). All of these products, save HomeSite are available for the Mac platform in addition to the Windows platform. I’m not so sure that would remain true if Microsoft purchased Macromedia. Future support for Linux would be a pipe dream for all but the most delusional of Web professionals.
Even worse, the browser-dominance of Microsoft and its browser would be further extended into the tools that so many of us use to build sites. I, and many of my colleagues avoid Microsoft’s FrontPage as it produces very poor code, which is oriented towards IE, thus causing more time to be spent on cleaning up its work than it would take to develop the page by hand. Would the new products continue to provide support for alternate technologies like PHP, JSP and MySQL in their products? That’s a hard one to call.
Now, personally I use quite a few Microsoft products and am quite happy with them. The machine at which I am sitting runs Windows XP Home Edition, and I regularly use Microsoft Office. The keyboard and mouse that I use are both products of Microsoft as well. But, I also have a Linux file server (running Mandrake Linux), and my wife Sarah uses a Mac.
If Macromedia is purchased by Microsoft, we as developers and designers will eventually be pulled into their methodologies and requirements, or forced into searching for alternate products which may not be nearly as good as the current offering, or may not survive as competitors to Microsoft’s dominance.
Ultimately our clients and our audience will suffer.