Adobe, Stop Being a Wussy

Adobe Systems has been operating as a vassal state of Apple and Steve Jobs since its very inception.

Adobe Systems has been operating as a vassal state of Apple and Steve Jobs since its very inception. But with relations becoming strained between the two companies, is it finally time for Adobe to play hardball?

Ah, Adobe. Poor Adobe.

Things between Adobe and Apple used to be just peachy. Indeed, almost from the very day the company formed in 1982, it was destined to be the premier supplier of content creation software for the Macintosh, which launched only two years later, in 1984. We all remember what happened in 1984, at least those of us who aren't Milennials.

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First, it was their vector graphics drawing application Illustrator in 1986, and then came Photoshop in 1987 for bitmap editing and painting, which quickly seated the Macintosh as the chosen content creation platform for Advertising and other forms of commercial graphic arts, setting it apart from Windows. Indeed, Adobe eventually ported Photoshop to Windows and made great strides in that market, but the Mac version was always the favorite child.

Adobe followed on in later years with Premiere Pro for video editing, and began to acquire other Macintosh-centric desktop publishing software companies such as Aldus and Frame Technologies to compete with Quark and as a result effectively dominate the content creation market.

In 2005, Adobe purchased Macromedia in a $3.4 billion stock swap which added many other content creation and web development products to their portfolio, such as DreamWeaver, Fireworks, Flash and FLEX. While all of these products run on Windows, again, these were "Killer apps" which greatly contributed to the success of the Mac platform.

All of this is established history. Adobe had an excellent relationship with Apple for many years, and one could argue that the company might not have thrived as much as it did without the Macintosh. But that was then, and this is now.

February, 2010. Relations between Adobe and Apple are becoming increasingly strained, particularly over the issue of Apple's exclusion of Flash from the iPhone/iPod Touch and the forthcoming iPad.

Adobe is now at a serious inflection point in its history. For years, it was Apple's darling. To quote the great savant philosopher, Forrest Gump, "Me and Jenny goes together like peas and carrots". If Adobe's recent blog comments are any indication, things are not peas and carrots anymore.

Indeed, Adobe makes a very good business out of its Macintosh product line. But this would only perpetuate its vassal/doormat status with Apple.

Today, Adobe needs to make some difficult decisions, and I beleive those decisions should include a phased in divorce from Apple and some self-reliance of its own.

I have made this recommendation before, but with with a different company, Microsoft. I still believe Microsoft should cease development on Microsoft Office for Mac, and given the fact that Apple has chosen to go iJuche with their own office suite on the iPad, I believe this gives Microsoft even more justification for doing so, particularly as it is not entirely out of the question that Redmond may decide to build an iPad competitor with Windows 7 Phone OS, like I proposed with the "ZuneBook".

Starting today, Adobe should announce that as of a future date -- let's call this April 1st, 2012 or 2013, depending on how generous they want to be (with me leaning towards the 2012 rather than the 2013) that support for all of their Macintosh applications will cease.

As of today, Adobe should announce that it will complete development on Mac versions of products in progress, but after they are released, they will no longer develop anything more for Mac or for Apple device platforms. The new strategic platforms for Adobe going forward will include Google's Android and Windows 7 Phone OS on mobile, with Microsoft Windows as the preferred client desktop.

To be nice to their loyal customers, they should offer competitive cross-license upgrades and transfers to Windows, and possibly consider Linux a strategic next-generation platform for content creation as well.

Maybe it's a bit out of the box, but I certainly could see Adobe partnering with a player like Canonical in building an "Ubuntu Adobe Edition" with commercial package feeds of ports of all the Mac apps and content development tools. Perhaps even acquire a company with serious cross platform coding expertise like Opera Software, who has used the Open Source Qt development framework to build past versions of their Linux browser. Adobe has also used Qt in various pieces of their own software such as Photoshop Elements.

And if Linux desktops sound a bit too wacky, this would also be a good time for Adobe to patch things up with Microsoft. The enemy of my enemy is my friend.

I'm not sure Adobe and Microsoft will ever see eye to eye on Flash versus Silverlight, but who knows. When opportunity knocks, even the most dangerous of rivals can sometimes unite for a common goal. In this case, it's containment of their biggest competition.

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Is a complete divorce of Adobe from Apple too extreme, or should it finally start playing hardball and recant its oath of fealty to the Hermit Kingdom of Cupertino? Talk Back and Let Me Know.

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