Microsoft and Adobe: Productivity and Platforms Companies Partner Closely

At Adobe’s Adobe MAX conference in Los Angeles on October 6, officials announced a host of updates across their entire product line, and several new creative-focused apps and SDK.

One of the several themes in the conference was Adobe working hard to make their products work across all devices. In making this point, they demonstrated several products using iPhone, iPad and Surface Pro 3. The demo on Surface Pro 3 showed the full Illustrator application, not a scaled down touch app, working very well with touch and stylus while keeping the mouse functionality intact.

In a surprise, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella joined in the keynote, and in his company, Adobe demonstrated how well their applications worked with touch, vision and speech on a Surface Pro 3. The final demo was on a Perceptive Pixel display where they were able to show how multiple people can physically collaborate and work on a digital product together. This includes multi-hand, multi-touch manipulation of information on the large display.

Nadella’s presence was to drive home the point that Adobe is committed to making their software work on a variety of devices, enabling the creative professionals to be unshackled from the physical hardware they are working on, including 2-in-1 devices like Surface as well as large displays like the Perceptive Pixels. Narayen also made the point that Adobe wants to make sure their software works well by partnering with hardware and software makers and especially working very closely with companies like Microsoft.

Satya Nadells and Shantanu Narayen at Adobe MAX
Satya Nadells and Shantanu Narayen at Adobe MAX

From Microsoft’s perspective, Nadella focused on his four key mantras: mobile-first and cloud-first mentality in building software, along with the core philosophy at Microsoft which is to be the platform maker upon which others build as well as being at the forefront of productivity. For the audience at Adobe MAX, Nadella talked about how creative professionals can build upon the platform created by Adobe with enhanced productivity that a device like Surface Pro 3 provides in the form of native support of touch screen and stylus.

Adobe Illustrator on Surface Pro 3
Adobe Illustrator on Surface Pro 3
Adobe Photoshop on Surface Pro 3
Adobe Photoshop on Surface Pro 3


The collaboration between Microsoft and Adobe is very interesting because for the longest time, it seemed like Adobe would be a good acquisition target for Microsoft which builds platforms for developers and IT pros but lack a suite for the creative folks. However, it does seem like the two companies are ok working very closely with each other (building Adobe Flash into Metro Internet Explorer was another unrelated collaboration) rather than be part of one company. Perhaps Microsoft realized that Adobe is the leader across a variety of software catered to creative professionals and it is best to court them and work closely with them.

Finally, in an Oprah moment, Nadella announced that all the attendees at Adobe MAX would be receiving a Surface Pro 3 along with Office 365 which includes 1TB of cloud storage. Surprisingly, this announcement received a standing ovation!

Microsoft Adds Another App to Office: Sway

In a blog post on Office Blogs on October 1, Microsoft announced the launch of a new design-focused app in the Office family, called Sway. In keeping with the new “mobile-first, cloud-first” mantra at Microsoft, this app is built for the web and for all kinds of devices from the ground up. It is not a desktop application which was fine tuned to run on mobile devices, but instead it was built keeping a multi-device world in mind.

Sway can be thought of as another “storytelling” app which makes it easy for anyone to tell a story. This is done in a beautiful interface which scales itself to fill screens of all sizes, and leverages popular cloud storage and services like OneDrive, Facebook and YouTube. It blends text, images, embedded video and search in a variety of formats and layouts and makes creating projects (or “telling stories”) a fun exercise. The layouts get adjusted according to the content that keeps getting added to the canvas, which itself is called a Sway, and this is thanks to the work done by Microsoft Research.

An introduction video posted on the Office Blogs shows many different devices used to create the story:

Interestingly, much like PowerPoint’s Mix app/feature, Sway lets the stories be interactive so it enables collaboration among teams, friends and family. Currently, it looks like it supports many consumer services but the Office team promises increased business functionality in the form of support for OneDrive for Business and SharePoint, integration with the Office Graph and more.

Sway is currently in preview and one can request an invite at

Here is an example of an embedded Sway: