Microsoft Should Have Bought Figma, Not Adobe
Figma was always going to be acquired. Despite its outsized impact on the design world, it’s no Airbnb or Uber: a well known brand with a broad appeal. Instead, it’s a niche product with limited growth potential beyond its current user base. Going public has never been a viable option. And Figma’s investors needed to make their money back somehow.
Like many designers, though, I am skeptical whether Adobe is the right place for Figma. Despite a promising start, Adobe Xd, Adobe’s answer to Figma that launched in 2016, has since become the afterthought of the industry. Other apps in Adobe’s product line, like Photoshop or Illustrator, offer powerful features but are a nightmare to use. You don’t open Adobe’s apps because you want to, but because you have to.
Microsoft, in contrast, has been making strides in its cloud-based services. For example, its Office 365 bundle of productivity and collaboration apps feels surprisingly accessible and user friendly. By comparison, Adobe’s Creative Cloud, a suite of tools for creative professionals that includes Adobe Xd, is slow and bloated, as if it was built to keep its users hostage through up-sells and lock-ins rather than to make them happy.
The company from Redmond has also done a commendable job at managing its recent acquisitions. Notably, LinkedIn and GitHub, it acquired two years apart in 2016 and 2018, continue to thrive, both as brands and platforms. The days of hasty and haphazard acquisitions of Skype or Nokia’s devices and services business are apparently over.
Buying Figma would serve Microsoft’s interests too. It could help augment the collaborative features of Microsoft’s flagship products like Word and PowerPoint, but also Teams and perhaps even the recently announced Microsoft Designer. As such, it would enable Microsoft to build closer relationships with the design community, further benefiting its reputation and app ecosystem.
It’s hard not to think Microsoft would be a better place for Figma than Adobe. Microsoft has shown it can run cloud-based services and make big acquisitions work. Figma would also play well with Microsoft’s existing product line and boost Microsoft’s design credentials. I am hopeful, though, that Figma will continue to shine also under Adobe’s roof. If Microsoft managed to learn from its mistakes, maybe Adobe can do too.