Adobe, Choose Your Allies in the Apple War

Adobe is headed for a full-fledged war with Apple. Who they choose as their strategic Allies will determine if the company can emerge from the conflict victorious.

Adobe is headed for a full-fledged war with Apple. Who they choose as their strategic Allies will determine if the company can emerge from the conflict victorious.

I hate to say this, but I saw it coming. Adobe is going to war with Apple, and it's not going to be pretty.

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Back in late February I wrote a piece in which I suggested that Adobe discontinue its development for Apple platforms.

Many die-hard Apple fans responded quite negatively to this suggestion, in that any divorce from the Mac and Apple platforms would be tantamount to the company committing suicide, as a large amount of Adobe's income is still derived from building applications for the Mac and the iPhone.

However, with Apple dropping the equivalent of a weapon of mass destruction on Adobe by prohibiting their cross-compiler tools from being used in the creation of applications for the iPhone and the iPad, it seems as if Adobe has no choice but to consider a future in which they no longer contribute to the Apple ecosystem.

The company has already filed a notice to its investors and the Securities and Exchange Commission that its business could very well be harmed by the escalation of hostilities between the two companies.

It is also not an unrealistic conjecture to assume that this may go well beyond saber rattling. If Adobe feels they are significantly harmed by Apple's recent actions, litigation between to the two companies is also not out of the realm of possibility. In fact, I'd rate this is extremely probable, and I wouldn't be surprised to see some sort of announcement out of the company in a few weeks that they have, in fact, gone to war.

With war being inevitable, Adobe now needs to consider who its allies should be. Much as with large real-life global conflicts of the previous century, alliances are made out of convenience and also because of shared goals.

In the 1940s, the US and the British Empire joined forces with the Soviets in order to face the fascist Axis powers that were threatening to conquer the entire world. After Germany and the other members of the Axis were defeated and the territories were divided, the two Allies found themselves at odds with the Soviet Union, creating a fractionated Europe and Middle East for nearly half a century afterward whose destabilizing effects still very much resonate today.

For Adobe to continue to survive well into the next decade as a viable software company it may have to make some radical decisions about which software platforms it needs to concentrate on. Development on the iPhone and iPad has now been completely denied to them unless they concede to Apple's demands and write their application code natively in Apple's Objective-C.

This is going to be a huge stumbling block as Adobe wants to target as many platforms as possible with its cross-compilers, which are now prohibited for use in the iPad and iPhone.

Two clear Allies for Adobe come to light immediately -- desktop Linux, in the form of Canonical's Ubuntu operating system, which has been making significant strides in usability of late, and of course Google's Android smartphone OS.

While Adobe is proceeding forward with the latter and has demonstrated Flash and Air apps on that platform, and has made recent announcements and partnerships with Google on the Chrome and Flash side, the company has not yet released any significant Linux desktop applications from their creative content stable such as the upcoming CS5 suite.

Adobe continuing to throw a huge amount of desktop development effort at Windows and Mac would be the equivalent of becoming bedfellows with the Soviet Union and appeasing the Axis. As a long term strategy, it just isn't a good idea for the company to throw all its eggs in these two baskets.

Adobe has an opportunity to become a leader in Linux and to make that platform the future of creative content development. I have spoken to many individuals working in creative content design and they have made it quite clear to me that if Linux versions of the Adobe creative suite were available, they would switch to them from Windows and the Mac, in order to have a more stable and more open platform to work with.

Adobe has the software and the expertise to do it, but it has to put up or shut up. Without strong allies in its battle against Apple, it's unlikely that the company will continue to survive. Linux and Android represent the company's best chance to remain relevant well into the next decade and beyond.

Should Adobe join forces with Linux and Android as the cornerstones for its future software development strategy? Talk Back and Let Me Know.