Adobe Systems: Support Star

By Brian P. Watson Print this article Print

Keeping Macromedia's legacy alive paid off for Adobe Systems.

Users of Macromedia's application development frameworks say nothing's changed—especially customer support—since Adobe Systems bought it in 2005.

Adobe, long known for document and photo management software, paid $3.4 billion for Macromedia to expand its presence in Web development.

Customers applaud the combined company's effort to maintain Macromedia's user forums and conferences. For Bryan Tidd, director of technology for the city of Canton, Ga., Adobe's forums provide a casual way for customers to ask questions. "I think it's one of the few user groups where you can be a newbie or a veteran and ask questions without getting flamed," Tidd says.

Tidd and his team first worked with Macromedia's ColdFusion software development framework to put together an online bill payment system for Canton's 17,000 residents. In late 2004, the team added Flex, Macromedia's Flash multimedia development platform, to build a user interface for the system.

Kendall Whitehouse, senior director of information technology for the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business, also worked with ColdFusion and Flex to build applications like an online trading and investment simulator used by students.

Last year, Whitehouse sent 12 of his developers to Adobe's MAX developer conference, a carryover from Macromedia. His team went to get more hands-on experience and direct contact with Adobe's developers. "It's not just the sales guys and a bunch of marketing droids there," he says. "They have a long history of putting their developers out there and making them accessible to customers. That's a huge asset."

Jeremy Chone, product management director for Adobe, says carrying on Macromedia's customer-relations traditions, like MAX and the user forums, was a top priority after the merger. Adobe also retained most of Macromedia's executives and developers to make customers feel connected to the new company. "Adobe and Macromedia have passionate [user] communities," he says. "And we have passionate people. At the end of the day, the passion brings credibility."

Users of some of Adobe's newer products echo the Macromedia holdovers. Addam M. Driver, Web developer and engineer with NBC, leads the network's effort to bolster its customer-facing Web sites. When he attended the MAX conference in October, he learned about Adobe's Spry, a JavaScript library that utilizes Ajax (Asynchronous JavaScript and eXtensible Markup Language, or XML).

Immediately after, Driver began using the free library to build expand-and-collapse features onto NBC.com, allowing users to browse through video pages or Web-exclusive clips of their choice without having to see every offering in that section. Previously, users would have to follow a link to a page that showed all the selections for each category. Driver is also using Spry to create new video pages for each of the network's shows.

Driver says Spry is letting him create features faster than ever before.

To create a video file in XML and post it to the site takes five to 10 minutes, Driver says; using non-Ajax platforms, the video clip could take more than two hours to complete. —Brian P. Watson

At A Glance

Adobe Systems
345 Park Av.
San Jose, CA 95110
(408) 536-6000


Bruce Chizen

Tom Malloy
Chief Software Architect, Advanced Technology Labs

Flex offers a development platform on Flash, used in creating Web sites. Spry, a JavaScript library, helps developers build Ajax applications. ColdFusion is an application server and framework for building dynamic Web sites.
Reference Checks

Adam Pellegrini
Strategic Dir., Online

Kendall Whitehouse
Sr. Dir., I.T.

Bryan Tidd
Dir., Technology

Addam M. Driver
Web Developer/Engineer

Jason Peace
Sr. Web Engineer


2006FYTD* 2005FY 2004FY
Revenue $1.89B $1.97B $1.67B
Net income $322.57M $602.84M $450.40M
R&D spending $401.27M $365.33M $311.30M
* For first nine months, ended Sept. 1, 2006. Fiscal year ends Dec. 2.

This article was originally published on 2007-02-02
Associate Editor

Brian joined Baseline in March 2006. In addition to previous stints at Inter@ctive Week and The Net Economy, he's written for The News-Press in Fort Myers, Fla., as well as The Sunday Tribune in Dublin, Ireland. Brian has a B.A. from Bucknell University and a master's degree from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.

eWeek eWeek

Have the latest technology news and resources emailed to you everyday.