Chizen looks to Adobe's future

Summary:The graphics giant's new CEO says he's no Warnock or Geschke but promised growth by focusing on new markets as well as traditional publishers.

His predecessors will be remembered as two of the most important figures in the history of graphical communications, so you could say that Adobe Systems Inc.'s Bruce Chizen has big shoes to fill.

But in an interview at last week's Macworld Expo/San Francisco, the recently anointed CEO made it clear that he brings his own style to the company founded by John Warnock and Chuck Geschke, who continue to serve as co-chairmen of the board. (Warnock gave up his CEO position in December, moving into a new role as chief technology officer. Geschke retired in April.)

Warnock and Geschke developed the PostScript page-description language, which in the 1980s sparked a revolution in the publishing and printing industries, obliterating occupational categories like typesetting and replacing them with new ones. Today, the vast majority of commercial printing uses some form of PostScript technology, much of it on Macs.

Chizen described his predecessors as "geniuses" and made no claim to that label. His background is largely in sales and marketing: Chizen worked in retail merchandising for Mattel Electronics from 1980 to 1983, then moved to Microsoft Corp. (msft), where he served as eastern region sales director.

In 1987 he was part of the team that launched Claris Corp., serving as VP of sales and of worldwide marketing, then leading the company's Clear Choice division. He moved to San Jose, Calif.-based Adobe (adbe) in 1994 and has led both its graphics professional and consumer divisions. He was named president last April and continues to hold that title in addition to being CEO.

Referring to Warnock and Geschke, he quipped that, "I can fill one of those shoes. The rest of Adobe can fill the other one." He also stressed that he will continue to call on the founders for advice.

Street smarts
With a BS in health science from Brooklyn College--and an accent to match--the 45-year-old CEO said he picked up his computer industry experience "on the street."

At Microsoft, he said, he learned the value of "ruthless aggression," but he points to his time at Claris as being particularly valuable. There, CEO Bill Campbell--now chairman of Intuit (intu)--encouraged his top executives to learn all aspects of the company's business. "He taught us all a lot," Chizen said. Campbell's other proteges include Handspring (hand) CEO Donna Dubinsky, one of the developers of the original Palm Pilot.

Campbell, who sits on Apple's (aapl) board of directors, has been catching heat from Mac users because of Intuit's weak Mac support, but Chizen noted that conflict-of-interest rules likely prevented Campbell from participating in board discussions about Apple's relationship with Intuit. Chizen, for example, sits on the board of Viewpoint--formerly Metastream--and he said he has to leave the room when discussions of Adobe come up.

Asked what he brings to his new position at Adobe, he said he has a thorough understanding of the company and its products, as well as an ability to balance the requirements of any corporation's four key constituencies: customers, employees, stockholders and the community in which it does business.

But it's also clear that he brings a more-aggressive approach, along with a new focus on younger customers. In its recent marketing and advertising, Adobe has targeted a generation of Web designers who bypassed print design, Adobe's traditional area of strength. For example, Adobe was a major sponsor of the X Games, an Olympics-style competition for skateboarding and other sports with youthful appeal.

"We have a great relationship with traditional publishers," he said. But among those without that background, "we didn't have brand ID. We ran the risk of being seen as an 'Old Economy' company, not a 'New Economy' company. Web professionals who were not in print didn't recognize that Adobe was no longer the 'PostScript company.' "

Respect for a nemesis
Macromedia Inc. was first to target the Web-publishing market in a big way, and while the companies remain archrivals, Chizen expressed some admiration for his graphics-software counterpart. "I give (Macromedia CEO) Rob Burgess a lot of credit," he said. "Macromedia was first in spaces where we (now) compete."

He believes that with the latest round of Adobe software releases, which include LiveMotion 1.0, GoLive 5.0, Illustrator 9.0.2 and Photoshop 6.0, the company has a much stronger position in the Web-publishing market than before.

In contrast to Macromedia (macr), whose Web-graphics products tilt toward developers, he said that Adobe's software is targeted at users doing more "graphically intense" work. For example, Macromedia's Flash 5 has extensive scripting capabilities and other features for adding interactivity, while Adobe LiveMotion 1.0, which also produces Flash output, focuses more on streamlining the animation process and tightly integrates with Adobe Photoshop.

Chizen defended the company's recent patent-infringement lawsuit against Macromedia, contending that if Adobe had not challenged its rival's right to include tabbed, tear-off palettes in its software, Adobe would stand to become Macromedia's "R&D shop." Asked about the danger that Adobe might alienate users by pursuing the action, he said the company made a deliberate decision not to seek an injunction that would prevent Macromedia from shipping its software -- a move that surely would have angered customers, Chizen said. He added that the decision to go ahead with the suit was not an easy one. Macromedia has since filed a countersuit alleging patent infringement on Adobe's part.

The company that originally made its fortune on the PostScript page-description language now counts on PostScript licensing for a relatively small amount of revenue. "We'll continue to enhance it," he said, "but it's not an area of major investment." One reason, he said, is that there's not much more innovation that's really needed in RIP technology. However, Adobe does plan to add transparency support to the Acrobat PDF format, which is playing an increasingly central role in prepress and commercial printing operations. "For a RIP, I'm not sure what else there is," he said.

Adobe and Apple
Chizen described the relationship between Apple Computer Inc. and Adobe as "co-dependent." The Mac accounts for about 40 percent of Adobe's sales, he said, and "we're Apple's largest ISV," bigger even than Microsoft in terms of revenue.

He applauded the new hardware that Steve Jobs introduced during Tuesday's Macworld Expo keynote speech. "I love the laptop," he said. "I've been giving Steve a hard time about it for the past two years." He's been using an IBM ThinkPad, he said, but now he's ready to switch.

The Adobe CEO also said he thinks Apple (aapl) is taking the right approach by positioning the Macintosh as a hub for a new generation of digital appliances, such as DV camcorders and MP3 players. And he sees Apple focusing more on professional users, which plays to Adobe's strength.

However, Chizen expressed mixed feelings about Apple's software strategy, observing that hardware manufacturers have a dismal track record as developers of applications (as opposed to operating systems). "It's a different business," he said, noting for example, the wide disparity in gross margins between software and hardware companies.

On the other hand, Chizen said he believes some software functions, such as audio and DVD authoring, "should be part of the OS," and he thinks Jobs "will focus in software categories where he can truly differentiate the hardware."

Apple's Final Cut Pro digital-video software competes with Adobe Premiere -- recently revved to Version 6.0 -- and it remains a bone of contention between the companies. For example, Chizen said he's more inclined to pursue aggressive marketing of Premiere on the Intel side than on the Mac side because of the presence of Final Cut Pro. And while he admitted that many Mac users moved to Final Cut Pro because of shortcomings in Premiere 5.x, Chizen said the latest version -- along with the next release of Adobe After Effects -- should answer the critics.

"We're going to blow Final Cut out of the water," he said boldly, noting it's one area where he and Steve Jobs have "agreed to compete."

Something old, something new
That kind of aggressive stance is new at Adobe, stemming from a "wake-up call" the company received two years ago, when disappointing financial results caused its stock price to tank.

"We're more aggressive in marketing and how we partner," Chizen said, "while at the same time maintaining the Adobe culture."

He said he takes pride in being "direct, open and honest," adding that Adobe "doesn't have a lot of company politics" for a business of its size.

"No one walks out of meetings with us and thinks they got screwed," he said. "We've earned that reputation." He said he tries to take the same approach with employees, and Adobe generally earns high ratings as a place to work.

The company is in the midst of an ambitious expansion plan as it targets a new market opportunity that Adobe describes as "network publishing," products that enable people to publish and manage content in a wide range of media, including handheld devices with wireless access.

Economic swings
The expansion plans continue even with the slowing economy, Chizen said. "Our market drivers haven't changed," he asserted, and "the world has moved into our area of strength." Adobe has certainly done well by Wall Street: It recently reported its sixth consecutive quarter of record revenues.

Adobe, he contended, is less susceptible to economic downturns than other companies for several reasons. Adobe gets half its revenue from overseas, helping to insulate it from regional swings. "And we're not an IT purchase," he said. "We're not a big budget item."

However, he noted that if all organizations were to cut expenses, Adobe could see an impact on its bottom line. "We're not immune," he said. "I do worry about it, but we know how to manage our expenses." Adobe hasn't kept up with its recruiting goals, so it could cut expenses simply by slowing the rate of hiring, he said.

He pointed to one benefit of the cooling dot-com economy: It's now much easier to hire people than six months ago, and employees are no longer tempted by the huge salaries and stock options once promised by Internet startups.

Those who did leave simply to get a bigger paycheck, he said, probably won't be welcome back. "We don't want those people at Adobe," he said. "We want people who care about changing the world." His predecessors will be remembered as two of the most important figures in the history of graphical communications, so you could say that Adobe Systems Inc.'s Bruce Chizen has big shoes to fill.

But in an interview at last week's Macworld Expo/San Francisco, the recently anointed CEO made it clear that he brings his own style to the company founded by John Warnock and Chuck Geschke, who continue to serve as co-chairmen of the board. (Warnock gave up his CEO position in December, moving into a new role as chief technology officer. Geschke retired in April.)

Warnock and Geschke developed the PostScript page-description language, which in the 1980s sparked a revolution in the publishing and printing industries, obliterating occupational categories like typesetting and replacing them with new ones. Today, the vast majority of commercial printing uses some form of PostScript technology, much of it on Macs.

Chizen described his predecessors as "geniuses" and made no claim to that label. His background is largely in sales and marketing: Chizen worked in retail merchandising for Mattel Electronics from 1980 to 1983, then moved to Microsoft Corp. (msft), where he served as eastern region sales director.

In 1987 he was part of the team that launched Claris Corp., serving as VP of sales and of worldwide marketing, then leading the company's Clear Choice division. He moved to San Jose, Calif.-based Adobe (adbe) in 1994 and has led both its graphics professional and consumer divisions. He was named president last April and continues to hold that title in addition to being CEO.

Referring to Warnock and Geschke, he quipped that, "I can fill one of those shoes. The rest of Adobe can fill the other one." He also stressed that he will continue to call on the founders for advice.

Street smarts
With a BS in health science from Brooklyn College--and an accent to match--the 45-year-old CEO said he picked up his computer industry experience "on the street."

At Microsoft, he said, he learned the value of "ruthless aggression," but he points to his time at Claris as being particularly valuable. There, CEO Bill Campbell--now chairman of Intuit (intu)--encouraged his top executives to learn all aspects of the company's business. "He taught us all a lot," Chizen said. Campbell's other proteges include Handspring (hand) CEO Donna Dubinsky, one of the developers of the original Palm Pilot.

Campbell, who sits on Apple's (aapl) board of directors, has been catching heat from Mac users because of Intuit's weak Mac support, but Chizen noted that conflict-of-interest rules likely prevented Campbell from participating in board discussions about Apple's relationship with Intuit. Chizen, for example, sits on the board of Viewpoint--formerly Metastream--and he said he has to leave the room when discussions of Adobe come up.

Asked what he brings to his new position at Adobe, he said he has a thorough understanding of the company and its products, as well as an ability to balance the requirements of any corporation's four key constituencies: customers, employees, stockholders and the community in which it does business.

But it's also clear that he brings a more-aggressive approach, along with a new focus on younger customers. In its recent marketing and advertising, Adobe has targeted a generation of Web designers who bypassed print design, Adobe's traditional area of strength. For example, Adobe was a major sponsor of the X Games, an Olympics-style competition for skateboarding and other sports with youthful appeal.

"We have a great relationship with traditional publishers," he said. But among those without that background, "we didn't have brand ID. We ran the risk of being seen as an 'Old Economy' company, not a 'New Economy' company. Web professionals who were not in print didn't recognize that Adobe was no longer the 'PostScript company.' "

Respect for a nemesis
Macromedia Inc. was first to target the Web-publishing market in a big way, and while the companies remain archrivals, Chizen expressed some admiration for his graphics-software counterpart. "I give (Macromedia CEO) Rob Burgess a lot of credit," he said. "Macromedia was first in spaces where we (now) compete."

He believes that with the latest round of Adobe software releases, which include LiveMotion 1.0, GoLive 5.0, Illustrator 9.0.2 and Photoshop 6.0, the company has a much stronger position in the Web-publishing market than before.

In contrast to Macromedia (macr), whose Web-graphics products tilt toward developers, he said that Adobe's software is targeted at users doing more "graphically intense" work. For example, Macromedia's Flash 5 has extensive scripting capabilities and other features for adding interactivity, while Adobe LiveMotion 1.0, which also produces Flash output, focuses more on streamlining the animation process and tightly integrates with Adobe Photoshop.

Chizen defended the company's recent patent-infringement lawsuit against Macromedia, contending that if Adobe had not challenged its rival's right to include tabbed, tear-off palettes in its software, Adobe would stand to become Macromedia's "R&D shop." Asked about the danger that Adobe might alienate users by pursuing the action, he said the company made a deliberate decision not to seek an injunction that would prevent Macromedia from shipping its software -- a move that surely would have angered customers, Chizen said. He added that the decision to go ahead with the suit was not an easy one. Macromedia has since filed a countersuit alleging patent infringement on Adobe's part.

The company that originally made its fortune on the PostScript page-description language now counts on PostScript licensing for a relatively small amount of revenue. "We'll continue to enhance it," he said, "but it's not an area of major investment." One reason, he said, is that there's not much more innovation that's really needed in RIP technology. However, Adobe does plan to add transparency support to the Acrobat PDF format, which is playing an increasingly central role in prepress and commercial printing operations. "For a RIP, I'm not sure what else there is," he said.

Adobe and Apple
Chizen described the relationship between Apple Computer Inc. and Adobe as "co-dependent." The Mac accounts for about 40 percent of Adobe's sales, he said, and "we're Apple's largest ISV," bigger even than Microsoft in terms of revenue.

He applauded the new hardware that Steve Jobs introduced during Tuesday's Macworld Expo keynote speech. "I love the laptop," he said. "I've been giving Steve a hard time about it for the past two years." He's been using an IBM ThinkPad, he said, but now he's ready to switch.

The Adobe CEO also said he thinks Apple (aapl) is taking the right approach by positioning the Macintosh as a hub for a new generation of digital appliances, such as DV camcorders and MP3 players. And he sees Apple focusing more on professional users, which plays to Adobe's strength.

However, Chizen expressed mixed feelings about Apple's software strategy, observing that hardware manufacturers have a dismal track record as developers of applications (as opposed to operating systems). "It's a different business," he said, noting for example, the wide disparity in gross margins between software and hardware companies.

On the other hand, Chizen said he believes some software functions, such as audio and DVD authoring, "should be part of the OS," and he thinks Jobs "will focus in software categories where he can truly differentiate the hardware."

Apple's Final Cut Pro digital-video software competes with Adobe Premiere -- recently revved to Version 6.0 -- and it remains a bone of contention between the companies. For example, Chizen said he's more inclined to pursue aggressive marketing of Premiere on the Intel side than on the Mac side because of the presence of Final Cut Pro. And while he admitted that many Mac users moved to Final Cut Pro because of shortcomings in Premiere 5.x, Chizen said the latest version -- along with the next release of Adobe After Effects -- should answer the critics.

"We're going to blow Final Cut out of the water," he said boldly, noting it's one area where he and Steve Jobs have "agreed to compete."

Something old, something new
That kind of aggressive stance is new at Adobe, stemming from a "wake-up call" the company received two years ago, when disappointing financial results caused its stock price to tank.

"We're more aggressive in marketing and how we partner," Chizen said, "while at the same time maintaining the Adobe culture."

He said he takes pride in being "direct, open and honest," adding that Adobe "doesn't have a lot of company politics" for a business of its size.

"No one walks out of meetings with us and thinks they got screwed," he said. "We've earned that reputation." He said he tries to take the same approach with employees, and Adobe generally earns high ratings as a place to work.

The company is in the midst of an ambitious expansion plan as it targets a new market opportunity that Adobe describes as "network publishing," products that enable people to publish and manage content in a wide range of media, including handheld devices with wireless access.

Economic swings
The expansion plans continue even with the slowing economy, Chizen said. "Our market drivers haven't changed," he asserted, and "the world has moved into our area of strength." Adobe has certainly done well by Wall Street: It recently reported its sixth consecutive quarter of record revenues.

Adobe, he contended, is less susceptible to economic downturns than other companies for several reasons. Adobe gets half its revenue from overseas, helping to insulate it from regional swings. "And we're not an IT purchase," he said. "We're not a big budget item."

However, he noted that if all organizations were to cut expenses, Adobe could see an impact on its bottom line. "We're not immune," he said. "I do worry about it, but we know how to manage our expenses." Adobe hasn't kept up with its recruiting goals, so it could cut expenses simply by slowing the rate of hiring, he said.

He pointed to one benefit of the cooling dot-com economy: It's now much easier to hire people than six months ago, and employees are no longer tempted by the huge salaries and stock options once promised by Internet startups.

Those who did leave simply to get a bigger paycheck, he said, probably won't be welcome back. "We don't want those people at Adobe," he said. "We want people who care about changing the world."

Topics: Apple, Hardware, IT Employment, Lenovo, Microsoft, Operating Systems, Software

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