While shares of design software company Adobe (NASDAQ:ADBE) have risen substantially -- and just beaten the S&P 500 -- over the last 12 months, they've actually fallen a good ways since early November. If I had to guess why, I'd suspect concerns about valuation, but I'd add that the recent slide can't be attributed to the company's near-term performance as a business.

Building on its strong fiscal-year results from December, Adobe continued the good feelings with an update on its fiscal Q1 (ending Mar. 5). Keep in mind that the company's Q4 ends in November, so its Q1 stands to benefit from any late- or post-holiday PC-buying that might require an upgrade or new software. The fourth and first quarters together, then, tend to be the key six months for the software maker's operations.

Though with more than a month to go these results could certainly change, Adobe is now looking for fiscal Q1 revenue of between $380 million and $405 million, and earnings per share of between $0.36 and $0.42. The company says all its geographic markets are performing well; Acrobat is selling strong; and its bundled Creative Suite graphics product has been well-received.

The new numbers represent significant growth over last year's Q1. The revenue figure is at least 28% ahead of last year's $297 million figure, while the EPS number would be at least 57% higher than last year's $0.23. (Last year's EPS was $0.25 if you exclude Adobe's $6.7 million investment loss for the quarter.)

The news, at least for now, has Adobe shares moving in the "right direction" again, as they quickly rose more than 6% in early trading.

No, silly, it's not a pow-wow about clay-hut making. Check out what other Fools are saying about the design software leader's prospects for 2004 on our Adobe discussion board. Only on Fool.com.

Dave Marino-Nachison can be reached at dmarnach@fool.com.