James Governor's Monkchips

On Adobe’s recent repositioning

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I have long argued Adobe needed to shit or get off the pot when it comes to the Enterprise business. Well – it recently decided to get off the pot.

Adobe has decided that it can’t make a broad-based enterprise platform play, and has refocused instead on two core markets it feels it can perform best in – namely Software for Marketing and Software for Creatives. It has laid off most off the staff associated with its enterprise business, including some good friends of mine. They’ll get new jobs or already have them, so that’s ok. With respect to its Flex app dev platform – it has chosen to hand the Flex code off to the Apache Software Foundation. Unless Adobe continues to play sugar daddy to Flex though its likely to wither on the vine. Open source code needs committers. One piece of code that deserves attention in the contribution is Blaze-DS, a data integration framework.

In related news Adobe is also dropping mobile Flash, in favour of packaging HTML5 and native for mobile and tablet apps using PhoneGap (also now an Apache proposal). PhoneGap definitely has significant market momentum.

From a strategy perspective Adobe’s decision to focus on high margin opportunities in markets it feels it can dominate makes perfect sense. Omniture is very good at sales to marketing departments. Creative Suite is well, Creative Suite – that is, one of the great franchises in tech.

But from a developer relations perspective, a human view, a grassroots view, Adobe just lost a lot of goodwill, which is a problem because it is elite developers that are rocking the world of brand marketing right now. Untethering a developer community is not new for Adobe; see for example the ColdFusion ecosystem. But for all those people in the Adobe community that spent money to go to its MAX conference, and returned home all fired up, only too find a few weeks later that the MAX roadmaps were being torn up… the repositioning is awful news.

My old colleague Cote makes some great points in his analysis of the mobile Flash move.

This scenario seems great to me as I’ve always thought that Adobe is one of the better positioned application development toolchains out there…if they can just focus on HTML5 instead of Flash. The main thing I like to point out is that, chances are, PhotoShop was involved in any application you use. Not all, of course, but so much UI and UX work gets done with part of the Adobe toolchain. It’s a foot-in-the-door for the rest of the application development process.

There was a brief time, years ago, when Bruce Eckel brought the Adobe horse to the Java water, that passed into the RIA days, which are long over. Now, by embracing HTML5 (I hope, and it seems from recent moves), Adobe has a better shot at building that general, application developer business they’ve been lusting over for years. While talk of focusing more on “publishing” vs. “programming” slightly confused the point, the important thing to look at is the underlying technology and process supporting that publishing…namely HTML5-based programming, I’d suggest.

In summary Adobe’s decisions makes strong strategic sense, but there is definitely a human cost. Next year Adobe has to hope it can start to win more HTML5 developers to its toolchains than it will lose. It has a lot of work to do.

Adobe is a client.


  1. […] moves as bold. Taking action ahead of when it becomes inevitable is a good thing, but there are significant risks. Adobe’s platform is all about synergies, and chopping off bits that still have a significant […]

  2. Adobe needs to produce and sell their own Linux distro. Adobe lacks a platform and they get smacked around by Microsoft and Apple rather frequently of late. Linux lacks GUI polish and shine, along with industrial quality desktop applications. Adobe products tightly integrated with an Adobe linux distro would create a powerful desktop alternative for the masses.

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