Microsoft's insatiable quest for software dominance continues. And this time, the target is Adobe Systems. Microsoft is not willing to concede the design market to Adobe/Macromedia. As a first step, they acquired Creature House to solidify its presence in the design market. And if Microsoft is successful, it will represent the most significant competitive threat Adobe/Macromedia has seen in many years.

Adobe PDF, Photoshop and Flash find themselves in Microsoft crosshairs.

Target I : Adobe PDF - Microsoft is working on a new XML based document format "Metro" that will challenge Adobe's PostScript and PDF technologies. Microsoft Metro will be licensed royalty free and users will be able to open Metro files without a special client. It will be available around the time Visa is released. [read details]

Target II : Adobe Photoshop - Microsoft's own illustration and graphic design tool Acrylic is actually an updated version of Creature House Expression bought by MS in 2003. Microsoft intends to offer Acrylic as an alternative to Adobe Photoshop, likely at a lower cost. Acrylic supports XAML format that will enable developers to take advantage of Windows Vista's new graphics engine known as Avalon. [read details]

Target III : Adobe-Macromedia Flash - The Adobe-Macromedia merger will close this fall and Macromedia Flash is set to become Adobe's baby. Infact, Flash received the maximum boost in recent announcement of Macromedia Studio 8. And Microsoft Sparkle is all set to challenge Flash dominance.

Update: Microsoft Sparkle has better 3D capabilities but requires Windows Vista. It might take few years before it actually makes a dent to Macromedia Flash's marketshare.

The ubiquitous lightweight Flash player is available for Windows, Mac, Linux, handheld devices and cellular phones. And Flash Player is free while Sparkle would require users to upgrade to a completely new OS and even new hardware.

So what is Microsoft Sparkle ?

Sparkle is a vector graphics software (SVG) also based on Creature House Expression. It will automate XAML application development. XAML is the page/UI description language for Windows Vista. XAML is also integrated with the new Avalon graphics system of Vista, which talks directly to accelerated graphics cards. Some believe that Microsoft may offer the Sparkle/Avalon/XAML trio even for free.

More details on Microsft Sparkle are expected in the PDC 2005 conference.

At its upcoming Professional Developers Conference next month, Microsoft Corp. will divulge more details about its Expression Studio suite of design and developer tools for the Windows Presentation Foundation, formerly code-named Avalon.

Expression Studio will consist of Acrylic, Sparkle and other components. Microsoft is looking to push the Expression suite in lockstep with its Visual Studio developer tools suite to make designers key participants in the development process.

Sparkle, which has already created enough ripples and excitement in the Flash community, could also spell the demise of tools that convert Microsoft Powerpoint to Flash files. (read, Macromedia Breeze Presenter module). And Metro could impact the Acrobat share.

But why did choose to target only Adobe Flash ? 3DS Max 8 and Alias Maya 7, recently unveiled at Siggraph 2005, are much more sophisticated design tools when compared to Flash. The fact that Sparkle will be embedded into the OS could mean faster rendering times and better graphics.

Microsoft to Automate Avalon Coding With Sparkle | Microsoft Buffs Sparkle Flash Killer | New Longhorn Graphics Tool Called Flashkiller | Microsoft Sparkle - Wikipedia definition