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Thursday, October 07, 2010, 02:00 pm PT (05:00 pm ET)

Microsoft, Adobe execs discuss Apple, potential merger in meeting

Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer and other company top brass recently held a meeting with those in charge of Adobe to discuss a number of topics, including a partnership or even a merger to counter Apple's success in the mobile phone market.

The purported meeting, revealed by The New York Times, involved Ballmer and a "small entourage of deputies," who spoke with Adobe's CEO, Shantanu Narayen. The meetings were said to last over an hour, and the subject of Apple was one of the main talking points.

The report also indicated that Microsoft could potentially acquire Adobe. It was said the companies discussed the "blockade" Steve Jobs had placed on Adobe's Web-based Flash software, banning it from use on iOS-powered devices like the iPhone and iPad.

"The New York Times learned about these meetings through employees and consultants to the companies who were involved in the discussions that took place or familiar with their organization, all of whom asked not to be identified as they are unauthorized to speak publicly by Microsoft or Adobe," author Nick Bilton wrote. "Those involved in the meeting, from its logistical set up to the discussion that took place between the two companies, were instructed to stay very quiet about the two companies holding council."

One person familiar with the conversation told the Times that Microsoft had eyed Adobe for a possible acquisition several years ago, but the deal reportedly fell apart because Microsoft was worried about scrutiny from the U.S. Dept. of Justice.

If such a deal were to become a reality, it would be an aligning of two of Apple's biggest rivals. While the Mac vs. PC wars have raged for years, Apple's crusade against Adobe is more recent, beginning with the introduction of the first iPhone, and its exclusion of Flash, in 2007.

This year, the rivalry became extremely heated when Narayen and Jobs exchanged a public war of words earlier this year, after Jobs published a letter in which he said Flash is the No. 1 cause of crashes on the Mac. Narayen fired back, and said that any issues are the fault of "the Apple operating system."

Ballmer in years past has caught the ire of Apple supporters, as the Microsoft executive has repeatedly dismissed the growth of the Mac platform as a "rounding error." Last July, he said gaining share from the roughly 10 million computers Apple sells a year is a "limited opportunity."