Cringely: Apple must replace Microsoft Office, buy Adobe Systems for attack on Microsoft to succeed

“Over the past three weeks, we’ve laid out in this column a sequence of clues and events that suggest Apple is planning to next year take on not only Microsoft’s hardware OEMs, but also possibly Microsoft, itself, by leveraging a vestigial legal right to some portion of the Windows API — in this case, literally the Windows XP API. This bold strategy is based on the high probability that — if something called Windows Vista ships at all next January — it will really be Windows XP SP4 with a new name. Microsoft is so bloated and paralyzed that this could happen, but what’s missing is an Apple application strategy to go with this operating system strategy, because Microsoft’s true power lies not in Windows, but in Microsoft Office. Fortunately for Apple, I believe there is an application plan in the works, and I will describe it here,” Robert X. Cringely writes for

‘We’ve been here before of course with IBM and OS/2,” Cringely explains. “The two key differences between that time and this are that Apple isn’t IBM, and this isn’t 1989. Windows is far more vulnerable today than it was then from a security standpoint. Rather than being an OS on the way up, as it was then, today Windows is the OS we tolerate. But that doesn’t mean Apple can ignore an application strategy, which for the most part means an Office strategy.”

“Office is how Microsoft makes most of its revenue, and Office is the bludgeon Microsoft uses to keep other software vendors in line. Without Office, Microsoft is just a company with an archaic and insecure OS. If Apple does go ahead to compete head-to-head with Microsoft for Microsoft’s own Windows customers, Cupertino will have to be ready in case Mac Office is withdrawn and Windows Office mysteriously breaks on Apple hardware,” Cringely writes. “Just as Apple had contingency plans for losing Internet Explorer and kept Safari secret even from the KHTML developers, and quietly planned for the contingency of an Intel/AMD switch, so, presumably, they have a contingency for the equally large problem of Office.”

“But finding an alternative to Microsoft Office won’t fully solve Apple’s application vulnerability. That’s because for its core media and graphics markets Apple is as dependent on Adobe as it is Microsoft for the general office market. And now that Adobe owns Macromedia, Apple is even more vulnerable. Adobe has already made one feint away from Mac development that required personal pressure from Steve Jobs on John Warnock to reverse. If Apple kinda-sorta embraces Windows enough for Adobe to question whether continued development for the native OS X platform is still warranted, well, then Apple WILL just become another Dell, which isn’t what Steve Jobs wants,” Cringely writes. “Steve wants Windows applications to run like crazy on his hybrid platform but to look like crap. In his heart of hearts, he’d still like to beat Microsoft on the merits, not just by leveraging some clever loophole. So he needs the top ISVs who are currently writing for OS X to continue writing for OS X, and that especially means Adobe. There’s only one way to make that happen for sure, and that’s for Apple to buy Adobe.”

Much more in Cringely’s full article here.

MacDailyNews Note: One minor mistake that Cringely makes is writing, “Apple’s Aperture photo touch-up program could die so PhotoShop could reign supreme. Hey, could that be why Apple is rumored to have this week just laid-off its entire Aperture development group?” Change “Photoshop” to “Lightroom,” which is the real (future) competitor to Apple’s “Aperture” and Cringely’s lines then make better sense. John Kheit’s excellent article for The Mac Observer, “If Apple Buys Adobe, Is the Operating System Market up for Grabs?” from December 16th, 2005 is also worth re-reading along with Cringely’s latest today. More on Kheit’s article here.

[UPDATE: 10:10am EDT: Fixed from incorrect “”]

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Related articles:
Steve Jobs: no interest in being Disney exec, plans to spend more time at Apple – April 27, 2006
Report: Apple axes bulk of Aperture team, app’s future in doubt – April 27, 2006
Buh-bye Freehand? Adobe offers Freehand to Illustrator migration guide – April 26, 2006
Adobe releases Lightroom Beta 2 for Intel-based Macs – February 14, 2006
Report: Adobe to take on Apple’s Aperture with new ‘LightRoom’ application for Mac OS X – January 06, 2006
Should Apple buy Adobe as leverage against Microsoft? – December 16, 2005
Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ ultimate goal: ‘to take back the computer business from Microsoft’ – June 16, 2005
What will users lose as Adobe swallows Macromedia? – April 19, 2005
Adobe to acquire Macromedia in $3.4 billion stock deal – April 18, 2005
Adobe prefers (and promotes) PCs over Macs – March 25, 2003


  1. Lets drop everything from Microsoft…in that way people will see just how great the Mac is. Besides, they could always use Office on the PeeCee side (using bootcamp)
    Magic word = land as in A land free from Microshaft

  2. True, I’ve succeeded in dumpoing all things MS but excel. Need a good spreadsheet with enough power to translate files from others. Probably out there, not sure. Another issue is the lack of a good word processor with equation editing for scientific publishing etc… any ideas?

  3. Andy, if it does skyrocket, I am extremely concerned as to what sort of subterfuge we could expect from Microsoft. No full frontal attack but rather death from a thousand cuts???
    Apart from yanking Office and making windows inoperable on the intel-macs, what else could they do? Comments?

  4. Robert X. Cringely is the pen name of both technology journalist Mark Stephens and a string of writers for a column in InfoWorld, the weekly computer trade newspaper published by IDG.

    Stephen’s Cringely currently writes an online column for the PBS website called I, Cringely: The Pulpit, and has launched a new internet television show NerdTV. InfoWorld continues to print its Robert X. Cringely feature, Notes From the Field, with a new and unknown writer.

    In 1998, it was revealed that Mark Stephens had falsely claimed a Ph.D. from Stanford University. [1] He reasoned that while he had completed the classes and tests required for the Ph.D., he failed to complete his dissertation. Asked about the resulting controversy, Stephens told a reporter: “[A] new fact has now become painfully clear to me: you don’t say you have the Ph.D unless you REALLY have the Ph.D.”

  5. Now wouldn’t that be a big coup for Apple? I wonder what hurdles they’d face (other than capital) if they really tried to do this?

    MDN Word: Really, as in “I’d REALLY like to see this happen!”

  6. A colleague sent me a Word file yesterday by e-mail that somehow got corrupted – every time I tried opening it with MS Word, the program would hang, requiring a force-quit.

    Finally, I opened the “corrupted” file with Pages 2.0. It opened perfectly, and I saved a copy both in Pages and in Word format. The latter then also opened perfectly with Word.

    Just a couple more additions (outlining and bibliography software support) and Pages could become the answer to all our Word problems !

  7. If Apple bought Adobe it could be operated much like Filemaker is, a side business that the Windows using public doesn’t realize is owned by Apple.

    Excel is the one MS application that I am still using on a regular basis. Where is Cells?

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