Crosstown Traffic: Adobe and Microsoft trading spaces

It seemed almost like the Good Old Days when everyone waited on Microsoft to show their cards before doing anything. While Adobe took over Moscone West in San Francisco for its MAX developer conference, Microsoft launched its Microsoft Online Services operation at the St. Regis 3 blocks away before an audience of press, analysts, bloggers, and most importantly, business partners. As one Adobe high up said, “Microsoft is focused on the enterprise.”

Left unsaid but only barely is that Adobe’s play is with developers, primarily those reaching the broad consumer playground known as Web 2.0 and its new kissing cousin Social Media. Of course, cloud computing is in there too, but where Microsoft is rolling out cloud services beginning with Exchange, Sharepoint, and Live Meeting, Adobe is selling tools to developers that will ultimately use the cloud to distribute the results.

Microsoft’s Online initiative must be a serious jolt to IBM and its Notes business, which MOS undercuts both in costs and speed of deployment. In a brisk speech by Microsoft Business president Stephen Elop, one early adopter told of his company going home for the weekend on Notes and starting the new week off on MOS Exchange plus the other services. Companies such as Coca Cola Enterprise are moving from Office and Windows as their primary Microsoft investment to MOS, replacing Notes and also switching away from a variety of CMS and home-grown applications in favor of Sharepoint.

At a blogger roundtable one Microsoftee even suggested that Sharepoint is, or will be, the application platform for enterprise apps. He quickly noted that that was the vision, not yet the reality, but for a post-Gates assessment of Sharepoint’s importance in the cloud-aware Microsoft, the emphatic declaration was something of an eyeopener. Equally illuminating was the lack of an answer to a direct question about a Silverlight Office version; while Microsoft is experimenting with engaging with bloggers, there’s even less communication internally across various groups as Microsoft essays the transition to Azure and a Windows Web OS.

Back at an Adobe press briefing (embedded below) with CTO Kevin Lynch, Adobe’s aggressive surge in the mobile space took a great deal of the hour. But that was long enough to hear loud and clear that Adobe plans on being not an uber OS but rather an interoperability layer to manage devices and WIndows/Mac/Linux desktops. It’s almost as though Adobe plans to usurp Sun’s Java runtime as the write-once-run-anywhere platform, only this time by selling the tools to accomplish this rather than the licenses and hardware on top of it.

Lynch also commented on Google’s apparent use of Flash in its Gmail GTalk/Gchat Video plugin. While Google has promised to get back to us regarding an implementation that clearly does not use open source code, so far they haven’t closed the loop. As with the iPhone and Flash, there’s both more and less than meets the eye in terms of progress toward a seamless Web and mobile experience.