Long gone are the days when a graphic designer's tools were pen, pencil, brush, exacto knife and illustration board. Today's designer relies almost exclusively on graphic design software which is both expensive and constantly changing. At some point or other, the designer has to decide to upgrade his or her present software or change to another brand. And, then the designer must learn all the new functions of this version of software. If the program interface changes then the learning curve for the design professional can be very steep and costly. On top of that, there's different graphic design software for desktop publishing, web design, illustration, and photography.
For much of the last decade, the desktop publishing arena was ruled by Quark Express. (Before that Adobe's PageMaker had been King of the Mountain.) Over the past few years, Adobe has been making a serious bid to regain its preeminence in desktop publishing with In Design. If Adobe squashes Quark it will pretty much have a monopoly in graphic design software, having already swallowed up Macromedia and much of its other competition.
At the end of 2005, Adobe concluded its acquisition of Macromedia which made it the owner of Dreamweaver - usually acclaimed as one of the best (and sometimes the most difficult to use) web design software available. Dreamweaver has few challengers in the arena of professional web design. Microsoft's Front Page still provides services for non-professionals and some professionals who are old-time PC users. Mostly though, Adobe, with the acquisition of Dreamweaver, has attained a semi-monopoly here as well.
In graphic design software for photography there's only one acknowledged leader - Adobe Photoshop. While other programs exist for the casual user, for the professional photographer Photoshop is the digital darkroom. Other companies exist by producing "plug-in's for Photoshop, until Adobe buys them.
What about graphic design software for illustration? Again, Adobe is the leader. With Adobe Illustrator used and recognized by the most professionals it usually wins hands down against the competition. And, it's not always which program is the easiest to use or has the most functions. It is which one is the most compatible in the most places. Corel Draw, Canadian illustration competitor to Illustrator is acknowledged by many to be easier and have more functions - but the files are hard to use anywhere but with Corel. So that limits across program functionality and thus its popularity.
One of the reasons InDesign is gaining so much ground is the ease of use with all of the other graphic design software programs in the Adobe family. You can move between them quickly and smoothly. Adobe now packages them as its Creative Suite and so it becomes one-stop shopping.
But, what will happen if Adobe becomes King of the Mountain? Without challengers, will it maintain the same quality and drive for excellence? And what will happen to the price? Will it even out or just continue upward. If you're the only ballpark, you can charge whatever rent you want?