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Adobe buys PhoneGap, TypeKit for better Web tools

Adobe is getting with the Web program: PhoneGap maker Nitobi will give Adobe tools for building mobile sites with Web standards, and TypeKit brings Web font subscriptions.

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Using a tried and true method to make up for lost time, Adobe is acquiring two companies, Nitobi and TypeKit, to give it more strength in a fast-moving area where it's playing catch-up.

For years Adobe advocated its Flash Player technology for advanced Web design, but now it's wholeheartedly on board with the biggest alternative, Web standards including HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Today, in conjunction with its Adobe Max developer and designer conference populated with the very people wrestling with that transition, the company announced the two acquisitions.

Overall, both acquisitions make sense strategically. Each gives Adobe a solid new starting point for aspects of new-age technology. Terms weren't disclosed, though, so it's not clear whether Adobe had to pay a premium for the companies. The TypeKit acquisition is complete, but the Nitobi buy is subject to closing conditions that should be met this month, Adobe said.

Nitobi makes PhoneGap, an open-source programming tool for creating Web apps that run on a variety of mobile phones. That aligns well with the cross-platform approach Adobe has favored with Flash: give programmers the ability to create what they want, and let the tools worry about the differences from one system to another.

Danny Winokur, Adobe's platform general manager, had this statement about Nitobi:

PhoneGap is a fantastic solution for developing a broad range of mobile apps using the latest Web standards, and is already integrated with Dreamweaver CS5.5 [the latest version of Adobe's Web site creation tool]. It's a perfect complement to Adobe's broad family of developer solutions, including Adobe AIR, and will allow us to continue to provide content publishers and developers with the best, cutting-edge solutions for creating innovative applications across platforms and devices.

In a similar vein, Adobe released a new preview version of Edge, an in-house tool the company is creating to help designers create animated, interactive Web sites using Web standards. Edge is set to be finished in 2012.

TypeKit is in a different arena, Web-based typography. It offers subscriptions to those who want to use sophisticated fonts on the Web with new abilities in CSS (Cascading Style Sheets). Adobe is among those that distributes its fonts in this way.

Adobe already licenses fonts to those who would use them in magazines and the like, but that business must adjust to the online era, where companies don't necessarily have the rights to distribute digital versions of the fonts. CSS and the related WOFF (Web Open Font Format) technology distribute digital fonts for rendering in a browser, an approach that can save download times and improve flexibility for display on everything from smartphones to big-screen TVs when compared to baking words into graphical PNG or JPEG images.

Among TypeKit's 250,000 customers are The New York Times and Condé Nast. Prices are higher for Web sites that have big audiences.

Lea Hickman, vice president. of product management at Adobe, had this to offer in a statement:

Typography is a fundamental design element and something that designers want to be more creative with on websites - especially as these websites now need to be viewed on mobile devices. Working closely with type foundries, the Typekit team has delivered an outstanding service, empowering designers to present the power of the printed word in new ways - online and on devices.

Next up will be the task of integrating the new brands into Adobe's software and services and trying to expand from their early-adopter customers to Adobe's more mainstream buyers.