March 30, 2007
by Colin Teubner.
Connie, Erica and I attended Adobe's analyst days this week in New York, and Connie and I had a chance to sit down with Bruce Chizen, Adobe's CEO, over lunch yesterday. Adobe is a major player in the Web 2.0 universe, with Flash (and the new Apollo technology) competing with Ajax-based technologies for creating rich internet apps (RIAs).
While Ajax is more open, Flash nonetheless can boast better cross-browser and cross-platform support, especially when moving into the realm of mobile devices. Ajax can run into problems just between Internet Explorer and Firefox, but the Flash player works in both browsers as well as in Safari — and on Linux too. In the mobile, world, Adobe showcased a first-of-its-kind tool for testing how a Flash movie looks on a variety of different cell phone models, with extremely rich metadata about each device. It was able to simulate things like the appearance of the screen outdoors vs. indoors, and the performance of a movie on different phones. We also saw a Sony PlayStation 3 running on Flash content.
One interesting question was about whether PDF was threatened by Microsoft's recent moves to create a replacement standard in its XML Paper Specification (XPS). Bruce's answer was, to paraphrase, "No." He believes — and I agree — that it's too late to displace PDF with any format, and especially not with one whose promoter has the goal of selling Windows and Office in mind. Adobe's recent submittal of PDF to the ISO will really help its adoption in government, too.
Back to Apollo, which is Adobe's new platform that combines elements of both Ajax and Flash, but allows applications to run in a browser or on the desktop. Adobe demonstrated an application for eBay that lets users continue monitoring the time to completion of an auction even if their internet connection goes down, for example. A startup called FineTune (finetune.com) also showed how it's building its music player application in Apollo. It remains to be seen what Apollo adoption will be like, but Adobe is allowing purveyors of Apollo applications to redistribute the Apollo runtime — so if developers are sold, it should find its way to consumers too.
Overall, Adobe has a diversified business with many strong products — not the least of which is Creative Suite 3, which takes best-of-breed apps like Photoshop to new levels — but we'd like to see them tie together different lines of business a little better. For example, why aren't they using LiveCycle BPM to drive workflows across the CS applications? Large design shops could really benefit from that kind of workflow automation (and it doesn't have to be overly rigid, either). That kind of cross-product synergy would make them a more important contender for the Information Workplace in the enterprise.