Adobe, Macromedia Shareholders Give Merger High Five

proposed $3.4 billion merger.

The deal, announced in early April, is slated to close this fall pending government approval. On Thursday, the companies said nearly 99 percent of the outstanding Adobe and Macromedia shares voted were cast in favor of the deal.

Adobe's powerful PDF franchise and Macromedia's ubiquitous Flash presence on PCs, Macs and other devices could make the combined company a prodigious counterweight even to Microsoft, several observers said.

Macromedia has said that the penetration of its Flash media player on nearly every PC, portable and cell phone makes it even more common than Windows -- a claim that few analysts dispute. Most people who Web surf have Flash on their machines without perhaps knowing it.

While the companies have remained mum on product plans, observers say there are clues to future directions. Macromedia is already dropping Freehand, for example, from its new Macromedia Studio 8 toolset.

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"There are two applications, one in each company's product line, that could be considered superfluous after a deal -- Adobe GoLive and Macromedia Freehand," said Sandee Cohen, a New York-based author and expert on graphical tools from both companies.

"GoLive has never had anywhere near the market share that [Macromedia] Dreamweaver has, so it would be silly for Adobe to continue spending resources on GoLive," she said, noting that Adoble is more likely to put GoLive in maintenance mode.

But while Adobe Illustrator dominates the professional graphics market, Freehand poses a more difficult problem since there are still pockets of heavy use around the world, she added. "My personal view is that Freehand will be dropped or sold," said Cohen. "When Macromedia became a Web-focused company, it let Freehand languish."

That paring down could be a bonus for VARs and third-party developers, she said. "In vector graphics, writing for both Illustrator and Freehand is a massive undertaking. Now maybe they can write for just one."

James Burke, president of Mind's Eye, a Boston-based developer of Web-based applications, and a Macromedia partner is bullish on the merger. "From a partner perspective, we rely heavily on [Macromedia] Cold Fusion [and] Flex -- the server products. And from what we've heard so far, it looks positive. They're keeping those products alive and healthy. Now we'll have additional opportunities to talk to some Adobe customers," he said.