Thursday, August 10, 2006

Viacom is buying Atom

Tom Higgins, the product manager for Director and Shockwave Player, blogged today that MTV Networks (owned by Viacom) are going to buy Atom Entertainment. For those who don't know, Atom Entertainment is the owner of, which is basically a heavy install base driver for Shockwave player. This is significant because plays a part in the install process for the Shockwave Player (last I checked, anyway). My understanding is that there has always been a very close relationship between and MacromediaAdobe (but perhaps that has eroded over the years).

Because of this, the fact that Tom is still learning about this is troubling. Tom is a smart, level-headed guy who is intimately familiar with the product and what the development community's reaction to changes to the installation process would result in. If the executives were smart, they would have started out this process by talking to him first to see what he had to say.

This makes me wonder anew whether there are any executives actually viewing Director and Shockwave as a technology instead of as a static brand element, an unchanging token to be traded around for cash. Shockwave's long-term value lies in the developers creating content with it. Every time a developer jumps ship, not only does Adobe lose revenue from the loss of future sales of new versions of Director, but also, there are fewer people developing content in Director, which in turn means less impetus for people to install the Shockwave player. Which in turn makes people less likely to adopt Director. And so on.

They don't appear to understand it, but Adobe executives are sitting on an absolute gold mine. They have a commanding lead in the web-based 3D game technologies realm, and the industry is poised to take casual gaming by storm. It's a no-brainer that this could mean a serious windfall for Adobe (and Atom, and Viacom). But if they squander that away by letting Director and Shockwave languish, letting other technologies move in and leapfrog them, then they won't be taking home the lion's share of development revenue and a cut of the consumption revenue.

Maybe Viacom understands this. Maybe Viacom, to protect their new investment, will prod Adobe into updating their aging 3D player so that new content that comes out for stays on top of the heap. But I doubt it. They probably just view this as buying eyeballs. Otherwise, they would have been talking to people like Tom. But we'll see.

Guess I should start learning Torque.

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