Adobe the platform company that relies on other platforms.

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In my twitter feeds I’ve been reading a lot of mixed opinions on Adobe, and given I often weigh in on all things Adobe, I thought I’d write down a few of my ideas on where I would take Adobe if I were CEO of the day and was talking on stage to the staff within (now that I don’t work for Microsoft I can express these opinions more in the light of day).

PDF vs SWF?

We are tools based company at present, we can replenish our market every two or so years, but this isn’t going to sustain us for too long. We need to spear heard the Enterprise in a way that allows our file formats to take on more of a de facto standard, much like PDF has today. We can expand more on the concept of “what is a document” further through the use of Flash technology. We however, must approach this concept from a completely different angle.

We must consolidate the two formats into one, but we must also provide developers and designers a HTML like experience in producing these formats. Our mandate is not to pick sides on the plug-in vs HTML battle, our mandate is to absorb both ideas at the same time.

We can provide interactive documents to those who want to go beyond the limitations of HTML today. We also want to enable these same documents to exist on the internet for those who don’t subscribe to this philosophy and a degraded experience isn’t a bad thing, it’s a palatable compromise. In other words, we need to ensure our future file formats work in all devices but done in a way that our tooling is the most superior.

HTML is Flash’s friend.

Browsers are our biggest competitor and at the same time ally. Enabling Flash technology to be injected as the preferred rendering engine for HTML5 will require us to open the runtime more. Instead of all or nothing approach which we have today, we should instead provide a turnkey based approach to this equation. At a core level, Flash should respect the current HTML standards we have today but provide a hook point for us to make additional changes on that suite different file formats outside of HTML.

HTML is still not portable, providing companies the ability to take their web like experiences into other software is our mission. Again, our PDF methodology is much the same as what HTML is today, the difference is we provide a much richer experience in around presenting document based experiences. We stand a greater chance of allowing Microsoft Office works to produce interactive experiences that can work on multiple platforms and devices whilst stil adhering to intended experience being asked from such workers.

We must invite companies like Microsoft, Google and Apple to help shape this future as they do not want to be the tooling providers for our core audience – designers. They want the developer base and its a highly contest arena that we simply don’t have the manpower or finances to contest.

User Experience is our future.

Our customer base represent majority of all user interface design, we should and continue to own the way forward for these types of customers to move the human race forward. Our job is not to compete with Apple, our job is enable tools that empower companies like Apple to do better and more agile user experience assembly. If Apple want an Appstore, our job should of been to provide a tool that enables their customers to produce experiences for their devices – to a specification they need and we can respect. If Microsoft Windows Mobile 7 needs our help to enable their customers a tooling experience that helps design audiences create the next generation of mobile apps, we should be there. We shouldn’t be the platform in which runs these experiences, we don’t have permission to do so.

We are not a platform company. We are a creative experience company.

Our job is simple, provide the missing workflow required in order for platform companies to succeed, meaning we want to empower our design audiences to design for these platforms. Flash technology is simply our portable rich format, it is not a platform – it could be, but we aren’t able to sustain this investment for much longer if we should head down that path.

Humility

.When a company like Apple or Microsoft rejects us, act with humility. End the conversation with “I think we agree to disagree on this one”, finger pointing and passive/aggressive assaults will not yield answers to why they reject us – it simply puts more distance between us.

Instead, listen, understand why they are forbidden to use us in context to what we are doing above. Should Microsoft or Apple wish to compete with us in the tooling space around what we produce, then its clear we are doing something wrong. We are limiting their potential and that is the heart of where we must compete. Silverlight and QuickTime should never of existed, we should have had a solution in place that was palatable to their needs. We failed in that regard, none the less enabling Flash Tooling like experiences to produce Silverlight or QuickTime is where we can regain our strengths. Expression Studio is our competitor not Silverlight.

Summary.

Adobe have squandered a lot of potential in the last 10 years (inclusive of Macromedia). Their staff are aggressive behind the scenes and they often remind me of the “old skool Microsoft” where Kill Sun Kill Sun type attitude ended badly for the said company. Their assaults on both Apple and Microsoft has continued to backfire, yet there doesn’t appear to be any outwardly change in behavior. It’s time they consolidated their efforts into a consistent message behind PR / Marketing spin.

They own the design audience’ at the moment, this however is likely to change at the rate the current competitive climate is looking. Products like Acrobat and Flash are file format stories only, Photoshop, Fireworks etc are tooling to enable these file formats and others to succeed. LiveCycle and Coldfusion are a distraction and should be culled or handed off to the open source community grow on their own and in a manner that is passive to other brands.

Adobe are skating on some very thin ice with all the large powerhouse brands. They require permission for Flash / Acrobat etc to exist, and whilst on the PC there has been great success but those days are starting to wind down. Everytime an operating system is released on a device/pc, Adobe is not there. Customers are easily swayed to new things, and at the rate of where the industry is going, lock-outs are an acceptable process today.

Its easy for me to guess that Windows Mobile 7 will not ship Flash, it directly couter-acts Silverlight’s existence should it. iPhone/iPad/iNext will not ship Flash as Apple see no value in providing such experiences and more to the point video online is the contested space for Apple/Microsoft/Google – so sacrificing that for Flash isn’t palatable at this stage for all involved.

OSX, Windows 7 and beyond doesn’t come with Adobe technology pre-installed now, the saving grace right now is there is a deeply seeded saturation of file formats such as SWF on the web today. That being said, the more lock-outs that occur the less powerful this argument becomes – as it puts downward pressure on webmasters to start considering avoiding using these or albeit provide alternative file formats to solve the said problems.

Adobe need to now ready, aim, fire and less ready, fire, aim.

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  • Or Adobe could man up and start game-changing instead of game-playing, and create their own damn browser. Or work a deal with Google to make it a native part of Chrome. Or buy out Mozilla. #flashbrowserftw

  • Tucker Watson

    “Silverlight and QuickTime should never of existed, we should have had a solution in place that was palatable to their needs”

    Competition doesn’t mean that Adobe is doing “something wrong”, it may mean the opposite. Adobe had too much control over rich media on the web and that’s scary. HTML5 will be great but won’t completely replace plug-ins. Did Microsoft create Silverlight because they couldn’t do what they wanted in Flash or because they saw a huge business opportunity to compete with Flash who has little competition and relies on other platforms to be successful?

    “We are not a platform company, we are a creative experience company”

    Isn’t this what they tried with Apple Apps? The Flash plug-in wasn’t welcomed so they created an IDE to develop native iPhone Apps. In other words, they’re no longer “Flash” but something completely different. I saw part of CS5 that could export to HTML5 as well. Would you still consider the exported HTML5 as “Flash”?

    Flash and Silverlight are similar technologies but owned by very dissimilar companies. Microsoft can afford to solely focus on Microsoft platforms (Windows, Windows Phone 7) because they already own a large market share. Silverlight is immediately successful once bundled with their platforms. Microsoft doesn’t want Silverlight to work on iPhones because that only strengthens their competition. Adobe can’t do this because they don’t own platforms.