For the second quarter, Adobe Systems (NASDAQ:ADBE) came up short of expectations. To get a better handle on what's causing the current weakness, we will want to investigate the company's latest quarterly earnings conference call. Joining me in this pursuit are Hank Schofield and Bodhi Zappa.

Hank, in the call, CEO Bruce Chizen called the quarter a "challenging" one. In light of management's remarks in the conference, what's your take on the company's current weakness?

Not so creative?
Hank: Adobe saw softer-than-expected sales in its Creative Suite Premium and Studio products categories -- both of which have been areas of significant strength up to this point. Additionally, by region, sales were weaker in the Americas and Europe. Again, previously, these areas were the company's bread and butter until this quarter came around. Despite high demand for Adobe's products in Japan, without the strength of its core markets, the company was unable to muster enough sales to meet management's expectations. The concern is whether the current weakness is an anomaly or the beginning of a negative trend.

Bodhi: I'm inclined to believe it is the former. One of the reasons Creative Solutions was weaker this quarter is that management believes Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) users are sitting on the sidelines "waiting for Mactel support" in Creative applications. Once this gets addressed, this short-term problem should become an area of significant strength, given the solid sales Apple is experiencing as of late.

Jeremy: You may be right, Bodhi, that weak sales in Creative Solutions are temporary, but the problem will not be resolved immediately. During the guidance portion of the conference call, management clearly anticipated continued weakness in this product category in both Q3 and Q4. And while demand is expected to pick back up in both Europe and America by year-end, it wasn't enough to compel management to stick with previous guidance. Now management is projecting revenue to come in at a range of $2.54 billion to $2.6 billion, which is below the earlier estimate of $2.7 billion.

The Apple effect
Hank: Assuming there won't be any delays, the next version of Creative Suite isn't expected out until Q2 of the next fiscal year. In the meantime, those customers currently using Apple's new software platform, or are planning to move to it, will be sorely disappointed to find Adobe's current line of Creative products "don't work very well" on the systems. With Mac sales accelerating in recent quarters, this is a bad time to miss out on the action. When one analyst queried whether the problem could be addressed with a quick-fix patch, I gather from management's response that this isn't a compelling option. So, until Creative Suite 3 (CS3) hits store shelves next spring, Adobe will continue to lose out on key customers.

Jeremy: It certainly can ill-afford to drop the ball here, considering that Mac-related sales comprise in "excess of 20%" of Adobe's overall business. According to CEO Bruce Chizen, this percentage is "much, much higher for the Creative business." But I think "lose out," may be too harsh a characterization of the situation, Hank -- it suggests the customers are leaving to use a competitor's option. This doesn't seem to be the case. President and COO Shantanu Narayen stated that Mac-based customers are "waiting for the next version" of Adobe's products that support Mactel -- waiting, not leaving. Once CS3 does hit the market, Chizen believes the product will be a "major accelerator" of growth. Until then, shareholders can take comfort in the fact that Adobe is a well-diversified software company whose strength in certain categories allows it to absorb weakness in other areas.

Flashy lineup
Bodhi: One of those areas to be excited about is Flash. It's encouraging to see the Macromedia acquisition begin paying off when you hear of the reception its Flash video technology is receiving from such major multimedia players as News Corp.'s (NYSE:NWS) MySpace, Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), and Disney (NYSE:DIS) -- all of which were highlighted as current users of the technology. Additionally, a new agreement with Verizon (NYSE:VZ) will make the wireless operator the first in North America to implement Flash-based technology in handsets, bringing another level of interactive content to users. With names like these on your roster, it's hard not to be excited about the prospects for Flash.

Foolish bottom line
Jeremy: Fool contributor Ryan Fuhrmann likes the prospects for a long-term investment in Adobe, particularly if you are able to buy in around the mid-$20s. Long-term is the key word here. Over the short-term -- the next few quarters -- sales will likely continue to come up light until Adobe launches CS3 in the spring of 2007. In the meantime, shareholders will want to monitor the continued integration of the Macromedia acquisition. If the current big league roster of Flash users is suggestive of future success, Macromedia should offer nice value for Adobe in the quarters to come. When you combine the two, 2007 appears to be shaping up to be a strong year for Adobe.

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Fool contributor Jeremy MacNealy has no financial interest in any company mentioned. The Fool has an ironclad disclosure policy.