Adobe’s Open Screen Project Indicates Strategy Alignment

Adobe’s Open Screen Project is a good move for the company and a reminder that, per Andy Grove, only the paranoid survive. TechCrunch has a good article on the details of the announcement. What’s perhaps a little more interesting is the fact that there have been some significant changes at Adobe in the past few months:

  • CEO Bruce Chism departed and was replaced by COO Shantanu Narayen.
  • The co-head of the platform business unit John Brennan departed. The top job in the platform business unit (which has Flash, Flex, ColdFusion, etc.) went to David Wadhwani who used to lead Flex product development.
  • The head of the mobile business unit Al Ramadan departed to be replaced by the head of mobile marketing Gary Kovacs. Mobile, having been a separate group, came under the platform group where it logically belongs.

The net result is an alignment of strategy around Flash with a focus on market penetration & share grab in new markets such as mobile. This adds much needed coherency. In the past, for example, Flash Lite tried to balance penetration with driving revenue. That didn’t work well. Similarly, online Flash was open-sourced and standards-based in some ways and proprietary in others. Now file formats and wire protocols get opened up.

By opening up this way, Adobe is altogether eliminating or putting at risk some small revenue streams (Flash Lite licensing and some of the enterprise data services) with the hope of cementing Flash’s cross-platform leadership.

But, you might say, Flash has had all the market share online that it might ever need yet this hasn’t translated into a huge business for Adobe. What’s the real impact of the Open Screen Project likely to be? My guess is that all those leadership changes, followed by as big an announcement, are indications of an upcoming shift in how Adobe views the business model around Flash across platforms.

About Simeon Simeonov

I'm an entrepreneur, hacker, angel investor and reformed VC. I am currently Founder & CTO of Swoop, a search advertising platform. Through FastIgnite I invest in and work with a few great startups to get more done with less. Learn more, follow @simeons on Twitter and connect with me on LinkedIn.
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4 Responses to Adobe’s Open Screen Project Indicates Strategy Alignment

  1. Gregory Raiz says:

    I think part of this is that Adobe is moving their own applications online. PhotoShop Express is a basic photo editor and they recently acquired a company called Buzzword (recently acquired) is building an online word-processor based on Flex. I think they are making sure that the platform is ubiquitous so that the applications they write will be available everywhere.

    Also I suspect Apple has something to do with Adobe opening up Flash to mobile platforms. With developers coding apps specifically for the iphone and side-stepping flash light Adobe needed to make a move that would help get it’s platform into the iphone.

  2. Flash and iPhone:

    It’s not too bad to be everywhere, but why exactly is it so terribly important for Adobe to be present on the iPhone? To share in the hype or – ?

    With no chance to ever exceed 0.1% of the worldwide market for mobile handsets, I don’t see how iPhone can help ubiquity or, even less, revenues.

    The hype alone is worth it, though – I agree. ‘We are on the iPhone’ is a proud badge almost as precious as ‘Intel inside’…

    Just a random thought. Topic is highly interesting, though: where Adobe will go next is almost as interesting as what they managed to do with Mangement and (implicitly) with Strategy…

    V.

  3. Tony Confrey says:

    Interesting blog Simeon, I’ve just started tracking it.

    As a web entrepreneur building on Flex/Flash I was very happy to see the Adobe announcement. One of our target platforms at textflows.com is the iPhone, and handhelds in general. We were disappointed earlier this year when the iPhone was opened up but without Flash support. In giving advice to others in a similar position I currently have to caution against the Flex/Flash route in favor of Javascript/Ajax, due to the greater ubiquity of the latter, particularly given the strength of Javascript in WebKit on the iPhone and Android.

    Addressing this platform support gap will be key, IMO, to making Adobe technologies the most appealing place to build and deploy RIAs. It builds on moves like the open sourcing of the Flex framework, the free SDK and cheap development platform, the release of Air etc. The goal for Adobe should be to make it a no-brainer to build your app on Flex and deploy on Flash and/or Air. Once they own the RIA platform the business model will follow.

    BTW another trend I see, which adds to the value of the Open Screen Project, is the convergence of widget and mobile based apps. It seems to me that building a widget with its constraints on screen real estate is very similar to building for a mobile device screen. I think we’ll start to see apps that leverage a large screen with a fully functional web/Air interface where you build or create your content, organize your data, set your preferences etc; and a smaller mobile/widget interface where you view key highlights and keep up to date on the latest changes or social network aspects.

    -Tony

  4. Tony, you are absolutlely right–widgets are the convergence point between Web and mobile.

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