Improved Adobe relationship shows Microsoft's commitment to software partners

At its annual MAX conference yesterday, Adobe revealed a close partnership with Microsoft, which was abundantly clear when the companies gave each event attendee a free Surface Pro 3. The bigger news, however, was how closely the companies are working on the next versions of Adobe’s Creative Cloud applications.

During MAX, Adobe CEO Shantanu Nrarayen and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella appeared together on stage to tout the budding collaboration, with the latter executive saying “there is renewed energy in terms of [our] partnership.”

“There is renewed energy in terms of [our] partnership,” Nadella said

“At the very core of Microsoft, we are a company that builds platform and productivity tools,” Nadella said. “We get a kick out of enabling others to build applications, people to author documents – or, in your case, the creative process. In collaboration with Adobe, that’s what we want to enable. And of course we want to do this in a mobile-first, cloud-first world, because that’s the new paradigm.”

Nadella’s presence on stage comes after Adobe’s creative products have increasingly become synonymous with Apple’s OS X operating system. But as Nadella’s statements indicate, his Microsoft wants to ensure users come to Windows first for productivity-related tasks, something that major investors have demanded for years.

The improved working relationship between the two companies was exemplified when Adobe showcased a new interface for PhotoShop for devices with touchscreens, demoing the feature on a Surface Pro 3.

Instead of creating a stripped-down version of PhotoShop, as it’s done on iOS and Android, Adobe showed the full version of the graphics software on the Microsoft tablet, simply with a different interface. Additionally, the companies showed a video with jaw-dropping touch capabilities in future Adobe applications, again using Microsoft products – including the Surface Pro 3, a Windows Phone device and an Xbox One console.

Microsoft’s Panos Panay, head of the Surface unit, noted the improved Creative Cloud touch interface in a post on the official Surface blog. Panay’s post also touched on the benefits of Microsoft’s improved relationship with Adobe, saying the companies started working on the new interface “long before the Surface Pro 3 unveiling event in New York City this spring.”

While Nadella’s appearance at MAX obviously was an attempt to appeal to Adobe customers, it also reflects a difference in his tenure versus former CEO Steve Ballmer. While Ballmer’s tenure saw an intense focus on devices, especially in later years, Nadella is getting back to Microsoft’s roots by engaging the company’s software developer partners.

“This is just the beginning of a journey that I think can be exciting for the two companies, and most importantly for our creative community,” Nadella told MAX attendees.

The focus comes at a time when Apple and Google have benefited from strong developer ties, with consumer adoption of mobile platforms from each company skyrocketing thanks to tremendous app support. Given the tremendous applause Microsoft’s work with Adobe received at MAX, it appears it is striving to achieve a similar response from developers, workers and companies.

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