In all the coverage that has been given as of late to the hyperbolized battle between Apple and Adobe over the heart and soul of the Internet, I’m surprised that I haven’t seen any discussion of the rather large opportunity that Adobe has that the company doesn’t appear to be pursuing (which I will get to momentarily).
I am surprised by how surprised the vast majority of stories I’ve read are regarding the Adobe vs Apple battle over Flash. It is not like it is a new battle. It is one that has been ongoing very openly since the iPhone first launched, and even before then in terms of how much more poorly Flash performs on a Mac than it does on a PC. Also, the vast majority of the articles seem to forget that—and this is an important note—Flash is not Adobe’s core business, and online Flash, I would argue, isn’t even the core of the Flash wing of Adobe’s business. Flash was originally Macromedia Flash and was acquired by Adobe several years ago. Adobe’s core business is the very expensive suite of creative software that they sell to an entire industry of designers and artists: Photoshop, Illustrator, After Effects, Premiere, and In Design being the mainstays of their Creative Suite, with Flash being a sort of add on (that isn’t included in several of the core Creative Suite packages). As cute as the free Flash plugin is and as much as Adobe has put into Adobe AIR as a multi platform platform, I’m fairly sure that the revenue coming in from that branch of the company pales in comparison to the money they make from Photoshop, Illustrator, Premiere, and After Effects (this is based on no research whatsoever, so I could be entirely wrong in this assertion, but I really *really* doubt it). Even the money they make off of the Flash software for building things in Flash is probably split heavily towards professional production studios working in animation in Flash that they can output to a variety of formats.
So to hyperbolically state that Steve Jobs is determined to destroy Adobe is a somewhat asinine claim, imho. There’s too many other money making resources at Adobe’s disposal, entrenched in other non-online industries with deep deep pockets for Jobs to ever really threaten Adobe as a whole by something as small as not allowing the Flash plugin on the iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch, and by not allowing any 3rd party, non-Apple approved platforms to develop applications for those devices.
I’m surprised that Adobe has engaged this battle on Apple’s terms, playing into the bad PR surrounding the battle, rather than finding an alternate solution that would downplay the entire thing; I think Adobe is making a mistake with its current strategy (or really lack of strategy).
I think there is a huge opportunity on Apple’s iPlatform for Adobe that Adobe appears to be overlooking. The one thing that makes me think that Adobe might not be overlooking this opportunity and may actually be working on something secretly is the excellent and free Adobe Ideas app on the iPad. If you have an iPad and you haven’t downloaded it yet, give it a whirl. You draw / sketch little ideas in this app and Adobe does a nice smoothing of the lines you are drawing. It’s simple, but well-executed (unlike the rather no frills and useless Photoshop app for the iPhone that simply gives you a few filters while pissing all over the powerful brand that is Photoshop).
Now, take a look at Autodesk for a moment. They have, in Sketchbook Mobile for the iPhone and iPod touch and now in Sketchbook Pro for the iPad, created a professionally backed drawing program that is pretty damn powerful and has reinvigorated the Autodesk brand for lots of users out there who had forgotten that they existed.
What if Adobe did the same thing? What if Adobe actually used Apple’s development tools, as they did with Adobe Ideas, and built an actually useful version of their CS5 Suite of apps for the iPad? Adobe CS5 Touch with Photoshop Touch and Illustrator Touch. No plugins, but just the basic functionality of these applications made to work on the iPad and allowing export and integration with the desktop versions of the software. I would buy it in a second, and I think a lot of other people would too.
Also, Steve Jobs hates the idea of a Flash plugin for Mobile Safari on the iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch, but what if Adobe actually built a Flash Browser app for the iPlatform that adhered to all of Apple’s memory restrictions? Would Apple approve it? I would love to see that app.
In any case, this is what I would pursue if I was Adobe. There is an opportunity to dominate graphics creation on the iPad. None of the current apps is the clear Photoshop gold standard of the platform yet, not even Sketchbook Pro. Adobe is being a foolish company indeed if it continues to fight down to this battle over the Flash plugin without building products they can sell on the platform, monetize, and instantly create a new fan base of Apple iProduct users.
By the way, this post started out as an Adobe Ideas document, screenshot below. I also wrote this entire post on my iPad, using the WordPress app, which I will eventually review one of these days.