It's difficult to talk about the evolution of the web without mentioning Flash. Over the years Flash has run the gambit from annoying animation, to revolutionary video technology and application framework. Who would have thought during the dark days of the skip intro button that Flash would someday serve up 19% of the web's video surpassing both QuickTime and RealPlayer. The growth of web applications has given Flash a chance to win back some of its detractors, but the road to transition Flash from a novelty animation program to a game-changing Rich Internet Application framework will be extremely difficult. Leading it along that road is Kevin Lynch.
As is evident on his background page, Kevin has been involved with software for a long time. In the past couple of years his talks at conferences have revolved around a new way to deliver software. Before Web 2.0 exploded, Kevin was coining the term "Rich Internet Application". Before Ajax and Ruby on Rails became trendier than a New York nightclub, Kevin was talking about using Flash to write interactive web applications. But Flash has always had a credibility problem. It's been cited as a usability nightmare and an ugly add-on for perfectly good web browsers. Going forward it will be Kevin's job to make people see his vision and the benefits of developing in Flash.
When Adobe and Macromedia merged late in 2005, Adobe made Kevin the Chief Software Architect in charge of Adobe's Platform Business Unit. According to Adobe this unit focuses "on advancing Adobe's PDF and Flash-based technology platforms as standards for creating, managing, and delivering compelling, actionable applications and content to any desktop or device." So as the man in charge of the Platform Business Unit, Kevin is overseeing Flash and PDF, the two most important technologies in Adobe's toolbox.
With those two technologies, Adobe has the ability to drastically change how the world uses software with Kevin leading the charge. PDF and Flash are two of the most downloaded programs on the internet, and between the two of them have close to 99% penetration among internet users. They also come with more than their fair share of opponents. And as the fiasco with Microsoft over PDF inclusion in Office 2007, there are pitfalls and challenges ahead. Microsoft is transitioning to the next generation of software development by leveraging Vista and WPF. Adobe must make the jump from designers to developers, and court companies like Google and Yahoo which are looming large over the web application landscape. Despite the challenges, the payoff could be significant: a chance to both solidify Adobe's revenue base as well as move into a lucrative developer market. Later this year Adobe is planning to release a beta version of its Apollo project.
In the year ahead, the Platform Business Unit will help push Adobe in a new direction. Microsoft and Adobe are on a collision course. Adobe is aiming directly at Microsoft's core business and Microsoft is trying to hit Adobe in the design space. Meanwhile, Kevin will need to help Adobe persuade both regular developers and enterprises that Flash is a viable business solution. He has to do this without alienating the very creative, design-minded people who have made Flash what it is today. The board is nearly set, and the game is going to have a huge impact on the web.
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