Adobe “Hearts” Apple? Like a heart attack maybe…

Like many of his fellow Adobe bloggers suddenly free to support Adobe’s new position on why Flash is so “open” and “good for consumers”, John Nack at Adobe had an interesting post which he started off like this:

Today Adobe ran a full-page ad in various newspapers articulating key company beliefs, and company founders John Warnock & Chuck Geschke–whose PostScript innovations were instrumental in the adoption of the Macintosh & desktop publishing–posted their thoughts on open markets & open competition:

Adobe’s business philosophy is based on a premise that, in an open market, the best products will win in the end — and the best way to compete is to create the best technology and innovate faster than your competitors.

John continues on in his post talking about why he loves Apple, how he wants to “…build the most amazing iPad imaging apps the world has ever seen” but “who will decide” if he can get them accepted in the Apple App store? He then goes on to pontificate about innovating, the good of competition, and that his reader should care about this debate, “…because these issues affect your choices as a customer & a creative person.

No they don’t.

At its core, this entire Flash/no-Flash debate isn’t about “consumer choice” or “open”. This debate/issue is about power and control. Adobe doesn’t give a sh*t about “open” any more than Apple or any other tech company does — unless it’s about tapping into the ecosystem for fun and profit — and if they did care about my choices as a consumer and creative:

  • Adobe wouldn’t have essentially made Mac users second-class citizens for years from the late 1990s through mid-2000s
  • The Flash experience on the Mac wouldn’t have sucked for just as long (see my post, “Adobe Flash Roasts My ‘Chestnuts’ w/50% CPU Use“)
  • Adobe would produce non-developer creative tools to output in Flash (and Adobe folks, don’t argue that point since Adobe doesn’t have any even remotely worthwhile). Where’s the power user Flex?

Adobe controls the value chain of creation-to-output for Flash. Yes, Adobe has tried to appease the developer ecosystem with quasi “open” aspects to the Flash runtime container and tossing ActionScript into the mix, but 90% of the value chain is owned and controlled by Adobe. If I was Steve Jobs, I’d be pushing for open too (and don’t give me the “H.264 licensing” arguments since this no-Flash stance by Apple is likely due to Flash app delivery…not video).

It’s not just Adobe either. If you were an adult and alive in the 1990s (and paying any attention to the personal computer industry) then you couldn’t miss Microsoft’s “good for the consumer” and “consumer choice” moves to crush Netscape by bundling Internet Explorer in to Windows, hiding aspects of their API’s from developers (so their stuff ran better and faster) and Adobe just happened to not bother to be in that Microsoft-control-debate, did they? Where were Warnock and Geschke when Netscape was being killed? Oh yeah…they were ensuring all Adobe apps were optimized for Microsoft and reallocating Mac development resources to Windows-centric development.

So here’s the bottom line: Adobe put most of their eggs in the Microsoft basket and didn’t support Apple when they needed it most back in the late 1990s through about 2005. Apple’s iPhone (despite no Flash) is the fastest rampup in sales of any consumer electronics product ever produced. The iPad is exploding in sales and — unlike Adobe’s chosen BFF Microsoft and their weak selling WinXP Tablet PC — realizes what a colossal mistake they made and now have zero shot and positioning their creative value chain for the next phase of computing, mobile (and I, as many have said, don’t miss Flash AT ALL on my iPad).

So what is Adobe doing? Crying to the Federal government, taking out an ad in the Washington Post and NYTimes (why not a Bay area paper?) and starting that “Why Flash is all about Consumer Choice” ad campaign (being a martyr isn’t a good strategy).

Too many people are on both sides of this debate for a martyr strategy to work (and rally the masses to put pressure on Apple….like THAT would work). Plus, it doesn’t seem real innovative, does it?

About Steve Borsch

I’m CEO of Marketing Directions, Inc., a trend forecasting, consulting and publishing firm in Minnesota. Prior to that I was Vice President, Strategic Alliances at Lawson Software in St. Paul where I was responsible for all partnerships at this major vendor of enterprise resource planning software products and services. Read more about me here unless you’re already weary of me telling you how incredible and awesome I am.

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