Microsoft Partners Yawn At Adobe's Services Play

Alfred E. Neuman

Adobe on Monday rolled out the public beta of, on online applications suite that includes file storage, file sharing, conferencing, and word processing tools. In February, Adobe unveiled a beta of a free, online photo editing tool called Photoshop Express, which followed last year's launch of the online video editing tool Premiere Express.

It's all part of Adobe's desire to grab a piece of the lucrative online services pie and compete with Microsoft's Office Live Workspace and Google Docs. But while Microsoft partners say the emergence of newcomer Adobe bears watching, most believe that Microsoft's superior breadth of online applications gives it the upper hand in the online services race.

"I don't see Adobe as a threat at all," said Neil Pearlstein, president of PC Professional, an Oakland, Calif.-based Microsoft Gold Partner. "Their niche is much smaller than Microsoft's, and they're only going to be able to tackle a small percentage of the market."

"Could Adobe become a formidable competitor to Microsoft and Google in online services? I suppose. I just think that, for my money as a business owner, the benefits of the fully-developed Microsoft Office suite currently make the others pale in comparison," said Erik Thorsell, president of Success Computer Consulting, a Minneapolis-based Microsoft Gold partner.

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Andy Vabulas, CEO of IBIS, an Atlanta-based solution provider, says Microsoft's vision and ability to execute gives the software giant an advantage that'll be hard for competitors to overcome. "Adobe's announcement is interesting, but it doesn't cover the wide range of solutions that Microsoft is bringing to the market," he said.

At this early stage of the online services market, applications are limited to basic functionality and features, and so it's likely that more vendors will start rolling out online services in order to showcase their own service delivery capabilities.

But the real test for online services vendors, according to David Schrag, principal at Schrag Consulting, a Brighton, Mass.-based Small Business Specialist, will be to build integration hooks that give online applications the same versatility as on-premise software.

"Hosted applications are definitely on the rise, but their future success will likely hinge on their compatibility with plug-ins for mobile device synchronization, and compatibility with templates developed by other vendors," said Schrag.