21 July 2020

The Battle of the TechComm Giants

A little under two months ago, a fairly nondescript email arrived in my inbox from Adobe. It advertised a "Special Event" on 15th July, and urged me to register for it. There were precious few details, but as I sarcastically tweeted at the time it was pretty obvious a new release was on the cards.
Yes the release of Adobe's Technical Communication Suite 2020, complete with updates to RoboHelp, FrameMaker, and Adobe Experience Manager, has arrived. The "special event" that officially announced the release involved a mixture of Adobe staff and industry experts and covered a whole six hours of sessions!

It would be wrong to say the "special event" covered one topic. It was a series of sessions covering various topics related to Adobe's Technical Communication Suite. I'll cover the major points of these in a series of future blog posts, but it was what was happening alongside this event that proved most intriguing.

The long lead time to the event, together with the pretty sparse details of what it would cover until the week before, gave Adobe's competitors little scope for a spoiler event. That didn't stop Madcap Software from organizing an event alongside Adobe's. Although only 90 minutes long, its timing was aimed at getting a peak audience from territories right across the globe.

There's history between Adobe and Madcap, with the later being founded by ex-RoboHelp employees after the product was sunset by Macromedia. Adobe later bought Macromedia and reversed that decision, but not before Flare had a foothold on the market. Throw in Madcap's disruptive marketing approach, and you have a real battle on your hands.

Arguably having two vendors having to compete for our custom is positive. It is certainly true that if one vendor makes a move by providing functionality the other hasn't, the other has to follow suit in a future release. Madcap often seem to take the lead with this approach, causing Adobe to play catch-up, but Adobe can also play the same game. As a smaller and leaner company, Madcap are better positioned to make such moves. Adobe on the other hand have shown their commitment to the market by continuing to develop their product portfolio. This is to be admired from a colossus like Adobe.

Interestingly I notice Adobe seems to have addressed the SEO on their products. For example searching for "RoboHelp" in the past tended to return "Madcap Flare", "Paligo" or some other Madcap content in the top set of results. You had to look down past the first few results to see any content on Adobe products. That appears no longer to be true.

Reading between the lines, Adobe think they have a product that can take on and win against the young upstarts at Madcap. They've certainly lost ground more recently, so it will be interesting to see how the battle of the technical communication giants pans out.

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