You’ve undoubtedly heard the news: yesterday, in an acquisition to end all acquisitions style, Adobe (news, site) announced definitive plans to acquire Omniture for US$ 1.8 billion. Most initial reactions involved a lot of whooping over what on the surface looks like the first step towards a complete web solutions package -- design, build, publish and monitor -- but what's really going on here?
As per usual for the speculative bunch, there’s just a tad more to it than cooler workflows and more insights.
Breaking the Bank for Analytics?
Some folks are furrowing their brows at Adobe’s steep expenditure, due to the reported 29% decline in profits this time last year. Add that to what’s best described as a lukewarm response to their latest suite of products, CS4, and the money situation gets a tad hairier. Moreover, if the economy hasn’t seen a turnaround since last fall, can we reasonably expect to see one in the Adobe network?
Like many, Eric Peterson of research and consulting group Web Analytics Demystified is on the fence:
"I don't really see the synergy in the deal, but I admit that I love Adobe and so I'm willing to be surprised. I think of Adobe as a software company for creative types; Omniture sells software-as-a-service to analytical types; these are different business models and very different customers. The idea that somehow this acquisition bolsters Adobe’s position in content management or as a global delivery platform just doesn’t resonate with me.”
Adobe-Omniture Web Solution Utopia
Adobe's pretty picture of their world of web solutions has Omniture driving feedback into the creative process. Or in other words, the goal is that analytical data will provided to your creative team, in their native tools. This sounds nice, but as Eric and others like Phil Kemelor have pointed out, there's a mismatch here.
Most of the Creative Suite users don't have a clue about modern web analytics. We don't mean to insult them, far from it. These are just different worlds by and large. The creative folk are likely struggling first and foremost to stay on top of the complicated blend of actually being creative in the fairly technical environment that is the modern, standards compliant web. That's no small task and few really do just this much well.
Designers thriving on analytics data? It's a lovely idea, but we have our doubts about it.
While Peterson and fair amount of others sit on the fence, we can tell you who’s thoroughly excited, and that’s Omniture’s competition and Omniture's stock holders (the stock was up more than 25% on recent count).
“It feels pretty good,” said CEO of Webtrends, Alex Yoder, when asked how it felt to know that one of his biggest competitors was just bought out. And who can blame him? Omniture was in considerably good shape, a fact illustrated earlier this ear when Omniture CEO Josh James referred to competition as “more of a nuisance right now than anything.” With confidence like that we, among many others, can’t help but wonder: then why sell?
Charles Nicholls, Founder, CSO of SeeWhy, Inc. has his own ideas about why Omniture decided to hand over their shiny reigns: “That the Omniture leadership sold up at this point, after such rapid growth, indicates that they’ve been out of fresh ideas.”
We'll just leave that one for you to marinate in on your own.
As both positive and negative reasoning behind the purchase continues to come out of the woodwork over the next few days, keep in mind that the crossover between the two companies and areas of the Web has a lot of undeniable potential. For instance, Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen, believes adding analytics to Adobe’s already fully-loaded platform will “complete the loop” between offering, delivery and consumption for web developers. In agreement is Forrester analyst John Lovette, who spells it out like this:
"This acquisition has the potential to embed measurement technologies into a burgeoning landscape of interactive media. Adobe's content creation tools are widespread and this acquisition now provides the opportunity for both developers and content creators to use a measurement tool that is inherent to the development platform."
CMS Watch founder, Tony Bryne, claims to be still scratching his head, but postulates that the deal may be more about Adobe acquiring a SaaS platform that they can build on.
The company has been dabbling in SaaS with the likes of Photoshop online and InContext Editing among other projects. And given that the "Deliver" component of their pretty web solutions picture is not terribly developed, this does have some plausibility.
Narayen -- who also reported that Omniture will run as a separate business (Adobe’s software as a services division) -- stated that joint Adobe-Omniture products are expected at some point, but what exactly those will look like, along with whether or not the odd couple’s potential will bloom or fizzle, remains to be seen.
Or Just More of the Same?
On the other hand, maybe it's just about analytics. As Phil Kemelor muses, Adobe's combination of Flash + Flash Light + AIR applications makes for an enormous number of rich applications that likely need more and better analytics capabilities. Omniture working on the inside would certainly have a lot of field to play in, and the combination would help Adobe compete against Microsoft Silverlight on the Rich Internet Application side, and Qualcomm, Sun and Apple on the mobile device side.
Stay tuned here as we track where Adobe's "Deliver" plans get to, how's the acquisition effects the web analytics market and just who else gets sucked into this marketing automation and web content management happy dance.