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Thursday, September 15, 2005
Microsoft Unveils Rivals to Adobe Tools

Microsoft unveiled its new collection of professional graphic design and animation tools Wednesday, moving into the longtime domain of Adobe Systems and the company Adobe is acquiring, Macromedia.

The Microsoft Expression tools demonstrate the company's continued willingness to tackle more areas of the software business -- even if that means competing with other companies that make software for Microsoft's Windows operating system.

Microsoft's new tools -- code-named "Acrylic," "Quartz" and "Sparkle" -- promise to rival programs including Adobe Illustrator, Adobe GoLive and Macromedia Flash. But an Adobe official downplayed the competitive implications after watching Microsoft demonstrate the products at a conference in Seattle.

"We're pretty confident that our graphics customers will continue to look to Adobe tools to provide a rich and full array of graphics functionality," said Pam Deziel, Adobe's director of platform strategy.

Microsoft showed the new tools on the second day of its Professional Developers Conference in Los Angeles.

The company is moving into Adobe's territory with its upcoming new OS. Windows Vista includes a technology called XML Paper Specification, formerly known as Metro, that offers document-imaging capabilities similar to Adobe's PDF technology.

In the design market, there may be some overlap between the Microsoft tools and existing programs from Adobe and Macromedia. Microsoft's Sparkle Interactive Designer, the new animation tool, will take advantage of the new graphics presentation system in the next version of the operating system, Windows Vista, due out next year. It would offer an alternative to such programs as Macromedia's popular Flash animation software.

The Acrylic Graphic Designer will be a painting, illustration and effects tool from Microsoft in the same general segment of the market as Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator. Microsoft's Quartz Web Designer would rival Adobe's GoLive Web design program.

Microsoft showed the Expression programs in a series of demonstrations on stage at its conference Wednesday. Executives said the programs should improve the process of collaboration between software developers, who write the underlying code, and the designers who determine aspects including the on-screen appearance.

Microsoft didn't announce expected pricing or release dates for the final versions of the new tools.

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