Friday, June 01, 2007

How paranoid is Adobe?

Please understand this is only a blog. It may go way off track sometimes so feedback is welcome.

Next week Adobe will be visible in the UK. Adobe Live is in Islington on Tuesday and Wednesday. My own impression is that "Classic Adobe" will not be much represented. Printing as in litho, that sort of thing. "Classic print and publishing" is a business unit apparently based in India with no marketing budget. I am not opposed to video or web animation but I find it difficult to dialogue with Adobe on issues that are outside their current focus. Market and message segmentation seem a bit out of any coherence sometimes. Maybe it is just the number of emails that arrive recently.

MSNBC recently repeated an FT report by Richard Waters based on a statement by Bruce Chizen about Apollo, a new approach to Flash on the desktop-

We're disrupting how web applications are delivered...By the end of next year, we could have Apollo everywhere....It's truly revolutionary.

The idea of "Adobe_formerly_Macromedia" is still helping to make sense of this. It is as if Classic Adobe is about to vanish.

"Paranoid" is an objective term in business theory. Andrew S. Grove from Intel wrote a book titled "Only the Paranoid Survive". The preface is on the Intel site with an animated gif to illustrate an inflection point where old stategic pictures dissolve. Grove advocates that technology companies be constantly aware of change.

In the FT report Richard Waters wrote that "Adobe has been caught in the crosshairs of a growing number of Microsoft initiatives of late", referencing the new range of products for graphic designers. The report suggests that Adobe intends Apollo as an attack on Microsoft for the potential of "rich applications".

Picking a fight with Microsoft has never proved to be a smart move for software companies in the past. Adobe is counting on three factors in particular to tip the balance more in its favour as the battle shifts away from Microsoft's home turf of PC-focused application development.

One is the near-ubiquity of its Flash player and Acrobat document reader on PCs, and their increasing use on other "client" devices. Those free pieces of software will serve as the launch pad for Apollo: users upgrading to new versions of Flash and Acrobat will be offered the new software free of charge as well.

At Adobe Live there appears to be significant time for Flash and Apollo but almost no space at all for Mars, an XML approach to PDF. Perhaps PDF is not seen as part of the threat situation.

In 2005 John Dvorak wrote about the Adobe acquisition of Macromedia. For his take on the movie "Blowup", keep scrolling down .He suggested that "over the years Adobe has shown itself to be an aggressive, but paranoid software vendor." He traced this back to Seybold 1989

All this is because of a blindside announcement by Microsoft at the Seybold Desktop Publishing Conference in San Francisco on September 20, 1989 when it announced TrueType fonts and made Apple (a traditional Adobe partner) it's strategic partner to promote the new font standard.
Adobe co-founder John Warnock was at the podium next and was in tears over this unforeseen betrayal since Adobe, until then, owned this part of the business. From that point on Adobe, like the character in the movie, has been running from pursuers, imagined or otherwise.

Why? Microsoft has essentially failed at any attempt to encroach on the Adobe business. Even TrueType probably did no long term damage except to the relationship with Apple.
But kids, Microsoft lurks. Be-ware! Be-ware!

So maybe the urgency about a Flash future is not really such a priority. It seems out of proportion to me at the moment.

If it is true that the world of Postscript and PDF is about to disappear, why will there be a continuing income from these products? Video editing is free on PhotoBucket presumably as it will add to the volume of Flash media. The Elements versions of Photoshop and Premiere are excellent value. However the use of Elements to describe the Acrobat offer is confusing as only large corporate sites can consider the minimum number of seats. Could there be a Pagemaker Classic at a reasonable price?

It may take a year or so to discover how Apollo will work out. So far the progress of Vista appears to be slower than expected. The current Personal Computer World reports an add-on for Office that brings back the previous menus. It is posible that existing customers of Abobe and Microsoft are not as experimental as assumed in marketing plans.

I will try to keep an open mind during Adobe Live. But theories around paranoia may explain the experience of meassages that appear not to relate to current concerns.

Maybe an imagined Seybold would help to create a sense of coherence and integration. Fortunately both Postscript and PDF are open standards so there is a continuing discussion.

In his report about Adobe and paranoia, John Dvorak recalled the 1966 Michelangelo Antonioni film "Blowup"

The protagonist is at a small rock concert where pandemonium breaks out as the lead guitarist throws his guitar into the audience -- putting it up for grabs.
A fight ensues. Somehow, the protagonist ends up with the guitar and scoots into the street chased by an angry mob -- all demanding the instrument. Soon he looks back and the mob is gone. He looks at the guitar then throws it into the trash.
This scene, to me, epitomizes Adobe Systems.

The only difference is that with Adobe, nobody else is actually after the guitar. Adobe only thinks they are.



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