Adobe isn't in the Flash business

It isn’t in the Photoshop business, or the Acrobat business, or the [take-your-pick product name] business, either.
It’s in the helping people communicate business.
We’d all do well to remember that, because it means that the company’s fortunes are tied to building great tools for solving problems. If we do that well, we prosper; if we do it poorly, we fail. When we get too wrapped up in this technology or that, we lose touch with the problems that we (and more importantly our customers) are trying to solve.
John Gruber wrote the other day that “Hulu isn’t a Flash site, it’s a video site. Developers go where the users are.” Well sure, of course they do. Flash is a means to an end for Adobe, too, not the end unto itself.
The equation is simple. Adobe wants to make money selling tools, so it needs our customers’ clients to pay for work done with the tools. Clients won’t pay if their customers can’t see the work made with the tools. Therefore customers, clients, and by extension Adobe need a way to see the work, be that videos, interactive pieces, or anything else.
Flash has stepped in to fill some gaps heretofore left by other technologies. It is, however, just one possible means to an end–always has been. Adobe will of course continue to invest in making Flash better, and it’ll keep investing in other ways to help creative people reach customer eyeballs. It’s not a zero-sum game.
You’d think this stuff would be pretty obvious, but as I’ve already noted, the world likes either-or, winner-loser, good guy/bad guy, Jane-you’re-an-ignorant-slut narratives. They make for easy blogging, but mainly they’re a simpleminded distraction from solving real problems.

107 thoughts on “Adobe isn't in the Flash business

  1. Adobe isn’t widely hated else people wouldn’t buy their software. Everyone can make choices – don’t like Photoshop use the GIMP – don’t like Dreamweaver use Coda – wtf r u talking about?

  2. It is hard to see the point in this post. Seems to me Adobe IS in the Flash business as it provides and supports it. Same for all other Adobe products until the time Adobe stops supporting them. And it is true that “helping people communicate” is a good slogan covering Adobe’s products. Now, what was the point?

  3. Fair enough, you’re in the “helping people communicate” business.
    Much of the backlash in this instance, though, seems to be directed at the points originally coming out from ADOBE (er, sorry, the “Flash Evangelist, speaking as himself”) that says that the iPad misses 70% of the content of the web by lacking Flash, and therefore is a useless device for content.
    If you want to backpedal now and say you’re just working to make better tools to help people communicate, then why not have the Flash dogs admit as such?
    [I’m not backpedaling on anything. I’m pointing out the difference between strategy & tactics, between goals & the technologies used to achieve those goals. –J.]
    At this time, your words here sound hollow as there is little follow-up to indicate you’re making progress towards a standards bases approach. Put some skin in the game, and maybe people will take it at face value.
    [Sorry, but I don’t have time to list for you all the standards work Adobe has done, is doing, and will do. Maybe others can chime in about PDF (now an open standard), Tamarin, etc. –J.]

  4. I think there is a bad guy whose name is Apple. Apple is striving hard to take us back to a closed platform (or in “ecosystem” parlance a terrarium controlled by a single company). That’s bad. It’s bad for me when I surf with my iPhone. It’s bad for the creative community and the open information culture.
    Adobe’s attempt at a terrarium ecosystem was half-hearted (bye bye Adobe Stock Photos with Bridge as a storefront). I agree that Adobe’s (for the most part) technology agnostic.

  5. It’s hard, but the websites are moving to newer standard at fast pace.
    Google recently introduced YouTube based on HTML5. From what I know from my buddies at Google, they are fully going to transition from Flash to HTML5. The reason is simple: Nothing to install, it’s ready to go out of the box.
    It’s a harsh reality, but Adobe, you are IN flash business. Why would people put out content on Adobe air based application? Because You are IN Flash business. You facilitate the process of delivering the content. That’s being IN Flash business.
    [No: AIR, like Flash, is a means to an end. Customers don’t care about running AIR apps per se. They care about getting results. –J.]
    For flash to improve considerably, and to be competitive in web standards, the first thing is to bring Flash Mobile to higher standard, without any bugs, and with higher performance value with less power. HTML5 and CSS/AJAX coding already does that, and supports all mobile browser without need for additional software being installed.
    My five cents. I love you guys, okay. You guys make the best software. But you guys need to improve in how you handle the business.

  6. John, This is just my two cents, but maybe it’s time for you to take a break from blogging. I’m a big fan of yours, but talking to your customers like they are a bunch of idiots is not constructive.

  7. It’s great that you wrote this John, because it is not as obvious as you might hope to those of us outside the towers that Adobe is not vested in a Flash-filled future.
    I’m no fan of Flash, but the big problem with the relentless bashing it’s endured of late is that it comes largely from web devs who write code for a living, and nerds who like “openness” — as if that was actually something you can experience if you’re not a developer. Flash made it possible for artists to make pretty things on the web that would render identically on any platform or browser, and to do so without needing to become an engineer.
    It’s easy for folks whose creative toolset is a text editor to casually dis Flash, but as much as I wish Hulu wasn’t a Flash site, there are some lovely Flash things on the web that are what they are because an artist was able to make them using a semi-decent creative interface.
    I want my browsing experience to get better too, but I don’t wish for a future where interesting web content is the domain of coders.
    As this excellent article states, “Flash won’t die tomorrow, but plug-in technology is on its way out,” and “Adobe has a brief but golden opportunity to create the tools with which rich HTML5 content is created.”
    I’ll be happy to see Flash die when artists are done with it, not when nerds are.

  8. It’s unfortunate, John, that philosophy is often wasted because so many people only look at themselves, and not inside or outside. Much of the time I’m just as guilty, of course, it’s human nature 🙂
    Nice post, mate. It reminded me to keep looking.

  9. helping people communicate business.
    Great Mission Statement, difficult to implement with lots of different people (like customers and adobe designers) pulling in different directions. But this is why it is fun, there is always a better way and when you find it you are treated with a short micro-burst of joy…. and then on to the next problem/challenge.

  10. I can see a future where you still have the Flash IDE, timeline and all, but when you export your content, it will export an HTML5/Canvas tag and javascript output, or at leas the option for it.

  11. What I think Adobe needs to do is help advertisers with the new tools to communicate. HTML5 video ads, SVG splash screens and interstitials. You can kill it or shoot it but Flash is only the messenger.

  12. Following all the discussions all the Discussions about Flash, including the statments from Uncle Jobs regarding fried flash in his fucking iPan makes no real good publicity for Adobe (ehm, Macromedia) core technology.
    Billions of People using Flash day by day without even knowing about Flash and without owning an Adobe Product for real.
    There is no time wasting for excuses or regrets. It makes you weak talking about all the money you spend for pushing your products. We don’t wann hear that. If you want us to communicate, bust the borders and don’t make us think that Adobe is a little step back or far beyond our expectations. AGAIN: Forget excuses and regrets!
    People who own Adobe Products for their daily work are’nt insatiably tech-pricks, they want exactly that quality which Adobe is actually claiming and standing for.
    If you need more help from your community, ask for help!
    Without the intention beeing rude or an complete asshole: I bet there’s thousands of developers out there in the world who could easily replace a bunch of your problems in the nick of time.

  13. Your whole premise is utterly ridiculous. If Adobe really was in the “helping people communicate” business, you’d be working where you could make the biggest impact: k-12 literacy and writing education.
    [Adobe does a lot of work in those areas, but thanks for assuming & asserting otherwise. –J.]
    Adobe is in the applications business. Don’t fool yourself. Adobe has the same predilections as any software company, it wants their software to be ubiquitous, a monopoly so “communicators” have no choice but to use it, regardless of whether or not it is inefficient (not in terms of Flash’s notorious CPU inefficiency, I’m talking about efficiency of turning ideas into products). Now that Flash is no longer ubiquitous, “communicators” are looking a lot harder at efficient ways to deliver their content. Flash isn’t in the running anymore.
    [Thanks for missing my point. –J.]

  14. Sweet, now that that is out of the way, maybe you can start using Flash tech for more creative ways to give users/developers ways to solve their problems.
    You could add support for emerging HTML5 standards to IE with it, or better yet flv based HTML5 video tag for all (well all browsers where Flash Player works). Would open the web to all the existing video content!
    Or you could add canvas support to IE, since Microsoft won’t do it. Then you could make Flash CS5 output canvas content – or Dreamweaver.
    Or you could open the source to Flash Player (since you give it away for free anyway), and remove any excuse for venders not to support it any more (inside a broader standards based strategy – releasing a testing suite, and compatibility guidelines would help).
    Hey, maybe you could add some 3D stuff too – with all the stereoscopic tech coming out later this year, now is the time. Other rendering modes could be nice too – maybe something more document/event-centric.
    Just think of all the possibilities! Time to innovate and compete!
    BTW, I am just waiting for better DOM support for HTML (like) content within a flash based RIA (like what you do with TLF/FXG – very nice to ship higher level rendering code along with the document – HTML/CANVAS could be used for that purpose too – good-bye waiting for browser penetration before we can use rounded corners, hello shipping rendering support for new CSS selectors, when we feel like it). 😉

  15. I would agree with your “helping to communicate” line had I not used Photoshop CS3 slice-exporting feature.
    It’s behind times by 10 years. Have you seen how archaic the remaining Imageready code is? How is that helping me to communicate when I’m coding with standards?
    It’s almost dark magic to slice a site, export it to standards-compliant code and have it ready to go from inside Photoshop. You have to change all kinds of things, IDs, Classes, attach a CSS stylesheet, and manually clean the cruft. Takes about 2-3 hours to actually get a workable site up from exporting to being live in any presentable fashion.
    Instead of beefing up Flash, you guys should focus on the godawful code that Photoshop’s internal HTML generator puts out.
    [I seriously doubt you’d then use it. Hand-coders don’t like generated code, period. In my experience people export images from PS & skip the code generation. Therefore improving the code offers pretty limited ROI. –J.]

  16. I believe what John is saying here is that throughout Adobe’s long history their mission has been (and will continue to be) providing tools for creatives. That is, after all, the base name of their core product package (“Creative Suite”). Sure, they acquired Macromedia (and thus Flash) a few years back in an effort to get the company beyond desktop applications and more involved in web design and development, but that doesn’t change the company’s primary focus.
    [Very well said, Todd. –J.]
    What I believe needs to happen (and perhaps John is trying to help push the narrative in this direction) is a renewed marketing and public relations effort on *creativity*. Applications that inspire you to create, build, and engage audiences in ways that nothing else can. Apple is clearly very good at doing this (think iMovie versus Windows Movie Maker). How many people have tried movie editing for the first time, simply because Apple made them *feel* as if they could do it? And do it well?

  17. I’m wondering why only John (is this the Photoshop Blog?) is going offensive in this flashy case??
    [Who is “going offensive”? I’m not disparaging anything, other than perhaps people who can’t buffer a little intellectual complexity & who resort to dumbass tribalism. –J.]
    Just asking myself what words would have left Mr. Shantanu Narayen instead of Lee Brimelows mind?
    With all due respect, but it’s blog entries reflects a certain way of helplessness and frustration which seriously gone counterproductive.
    [Don’t point that finger at me. I’m trying to elevate the conversation. –J.]

  18. Hi John,
    Thanks for writing about Flash. Ultimately I believe, for good or bad, flash is going to go to the wayside. The direction that this kind of content should go towards HTML 5 (a common standard).
    [In the interest of accuracy, let’s be honest and say that there is no “HTML 5 standard” vis-a-vis video at the moment. As I wrote earlier, I think that’s too bad, and if I had ridonkulous wealth, I just might buy up the H.264 intellectual property so that everyone could implement support & move on. At the moment, however, there’s no one standard to implement. –J.]
    This will help in optimizing the end users experience because this will be the universal standard. The great part about it is that then Adobe can really help its user base by converting the current flash software to work with the HTML 5 standards and build interfaces that will work universally and won’t need a separate “player” to work with a browser. Then the Flash product (in the creative suite) will function like dreamweaver where you can build code with flash but it won’t be code for an adobe player but rather code for the HTML 5 standard.

  19. Excellent!
    Now that the communication channel is open, I’d like to know if Adobe is going to pay my money back for CS4 and the countless hours I have lost owing to its usage when the latest and greatest and I guess “48% more productive” CS5 will be out.

  20. Think about this:
    640×480 H264 Video at 30 fps inside a flash player= 100% dual core cpu @ 2.8Ghz
    same video in HTML5= 5-10% dual core cpu @ 2.8Ghz
    I believe 90% of difference in cpu load should ring a bell in Adobe’s Eggheads…

  21. I get it–Adobe’s business–but many of the commenters can’t get past the products. They’re simplistically equating one of the Adobe products–Flash, in this case–with Adobe’s overall business. If one looks at the set of products and services Adobe sells, it’s clear to me that John’s point is very valid.
    Note that my Mom doesn’t know anything about Flash, html, HTML5 or any of the video technologies and she doesn’t care. All she wants to do–with help–is see the occasional video on her PC. If Adobe can help content producers make my Mom enjoy her time on line with or without Flash, then I suspect Adobe will provide a suitable product.
    I don’t understand or care about the technical arguments about Flash vs. HTML5. I don’t develop in it nor will I. If the developers don’t like it, then I suggest the obvious: don’t use it. If you have to use it in your job, then change jobs. Better yet, create a better replacement for Flash and make your fortune like Adobe did. And, yeah, it is that simple.
    If you want it different, make it different. If your opinion is correct, you have a golden, slam-dunk opportunity to make a ton of money because Adobe’s blind about Flash and you can create a better product. I wish you luck.
    To poorly paraphrase a famous Photoshop author, you might be better off spending your time creating that better product instead of complaining about irrelevancies. Can you do it?

  22. I get it–Adobe’s business–but many of the commenters can’t get past the products. They’re simplistically equating one of the Adobe products–Flash, in this case–with Adobe’s overall business. If one looks at the set of products and services Adobe sells, it’s clear to me that John’s point is very valid.
    Note that my Mom doesn’t know anything about Flash, html, HTML5 or any of the video technologies and she doesn’t care. All she wants to do–with help–is see the occasional video on her PC. If Adobe can help content producers make my Mom enjoy her time on line with or without Flash, then I suspect Adobe will provide a suitable product.
    I don’t understand or care about the technical arguments about Flash vs. HTML5. I don’t develop in it nor will I. If the developers don’t like it, then I suggest the obvious: don’t use it. If you have to use it in your job, then change jobs. Better yet, create a better replacement for Flash and make your fortune like Adobe did. And, yeah, it is that simple.
    If you want it different, make it different. If your opinion is correct, you have a golden, slam-dunk opportunity to make a ton of money because Adobe’s blind about Flash and you can create a better product. I wish you luck.
    To poorly paraphrase a famous Photoshop author, you might be better off spending your time creating that better product instead of complaining about irrelevancies. Can you do it?

  23. Perfectly stated. Adobe is in the business of providing tools for creative individuals, and Flash is just one of those tools. And just as Director was one of the tools Macromedia offered, Flash too is now facing a similar crossroads. The tool can either be updated to take into account the move towards a more open and standards-based web, or not. Adobe will make that decision (I assume the current roadmap will be looked at in short order, if it hasn’t already) and develop Flash into a tool developers will continue to use and prosper using, or it will fail; and Flash will fade as did Director and HyperCard before it.

  24. Some seem to forget that Adobe has been demoing HTML5 support in Dreamweaver 5, even converting animations from Flash CS5 (via FXG). That Adobe have tools like BrowserLab that shows how HTML differs from browser to browser. That Adobe AIR renders HTML content via WebKit, with version 2.0 using the equivalent of Safari 4 with HTML5 support. If Adobe starts making money off of Dreamweaver IDE instead of Flash IDE, they will still be making money. Just because they invest in the Flash Player and IDE, doesn’t mean they can’t support HTML5 with Dreamweaver.
    [Very well said, Matthew. But people forget the distinctions you’re making because they want conflict, not nuance. –J.]

  25. Coders hate Flash for two reasons: because they have to buy an (non-open source) IDE to make it, but – worse – because it doesn’t fit into their mental model of what the web should be.
    Flash isn’t perfect. The UI is clunky (I spent years making Flash for sites) and the high CPU usage drives people nuts, including me.
    I’m not sure it really can be completely replaced, though much progress has been made ( does things I thought impossible without Flash a few years ago).
    It doesn’t deserve the, “99% bad” rap it’s been given, either.

  26. I have to agree with these sentiments. I took one look at that generated code (back in the day, and the approach is the same still in the apps) and decided to do it all by hand.
    Does anyone actually *use* those auto-html-generating features?

  27. Great insights (Todd’s been around the block, and knows what he’s talking about, BTW).
    I’m fascinated by the real innovation I’ve seen in the consumer space: Garageband (composing, lessons), iMovie (scrubbing clips), iPhoto (facial recognition, GPS awareness) – these apps just… leapfrog pro solutions costing much more in some respects.
    I’ve been mixing music on my iPhone with a great app called LoopTastic – for $3. Great UI, great fun.
    I suppose Pro apps have a more conservative audience. The innovation sure isn’t happening in that space.

  28. justified or not, adobe is getting a lot of heat in recent times (and not just since all the ipad stuff). some mac users in particular can’t wait to dump your software. plus it doesn’t help that your own bloggers recommend clicktoflash when someone whines about performance.
    sure, sometimes it is not framed nice, see the adobegripes guy for example. but most vocal users (me included) are loud because we care! if we would just move on silently THEN you’d have a problem.
    what am i getting at: you (i mean adobe here) don’t handle criticism well. if someone isn’t nice all the time hey, you’re adobe, you can be above that. but when someone tries to tell you you have a problem in your product you don’t point fingers elsewhere. you fix the effing problem!
    remember when adobegripes showed the different sliders in photoshop? adobe’s reaction was “apple does this too”, it was not “dang we’d better fix this”. why? even microsoft is way more professional about such things.
    if i were the product manager i’d take adobegripe’s and other’s rss-feeds and plug them straight into the bug tracker.
    sometimes it is really hard to uphold the flag for your software. and these things sure don’t make it easier.

  29. And Adobe seems to get a lot of heat from Macintosh users about things that aren’t their fault. Adobe doesn’t write the buggy OS releases. Adobe doesn’t choose to omit necessary APIs for video acceleration. Adobe doesn’t hold up video card driver updates til a year after they’ve appeared on Windows. Abode doesn’t write a browser that can’t manage memory or share the CPU with plugins correctly. Adobe uses the OS, the APIs, and the host applications and has to live with the crap Apple provides. Adobe has to put up with Apple’s lack of bug fixes and support people who will point everywhere BUT at Apple’s buggy code. If anyone deserves the “Lazy” title, it’s Apple engineers and the management who tells them that they’re so great they don’t have to fix bugs.
    Perhaps if you stopped yelling and ASKED about the problems (and were really willing to listen to the response and take it seriously) you’d get a lot farther. But this is the internet: you just want to bark and never listen.
    PS. Seriously: adobegripes gets more wrong than right. Someone over there just likes to bitch without doing any fact checking.

  30. by god i asked and i listened.
    from what i get from your answer you are talking about flash player performance. this is nothing that adobegripes writes about, have you read the site?

  31. adobe chose, all on their own, to implement certain photoshop panels and dialogs in flash and not as a native ui windows (on windows AND on mac). neither apple nor microsoft forced them to do so.
    yet still these flash panels look out of place on either platform and behave weirdly. they even sometimes make photoshop crash (they did for me at least twice).
    how is pointing this out bitching and yelling?

  32. You may want to check out Fireworks CS4 (specifically designed for rapid prototyping and screen-based interactivity) if you want to export HTML and CSS. This option is new in Fireworks CS4 and writes decent relatively positioned generated code; since it is generated it can be optimized by humans. Fireworks CS4 also imports PSDs and maintains slices that you already created in Photoshop, though you can also do all of the slicing in Fireworks easily.

  33. Unfortunately, Flash means different things to different people, and the various (sometime contradictory) arguments conflate into one big din.
    I personally suspect Apple’s primary objection to Flash is due to it kicking QuickTime’s behind everywhere except on iTunes. So it directly competes with a major Apple revenue stream (a la Skype on the iPhone).
    I’m currently in the process of shopping for a secure video streaming solution, and with all the various complicating factors, Flash is the closest thing I’ve found to a universal solution. That can’t make Apple happy.
    What does this mean to those whose primary interest in Flash is playing Farmville or contructing a web photo gallery? Nothing at all, but no one slices the argument that thinly.

  34. I’m a little bit confused as to the distinction here.
    Granted, Adobe gives away the runtimes and plugins for free, but that doesn’t mean the aim isn’t to make money from them.
    It’s not exactly uncommon for businesses to produce one product at a loss in order to create a user-base / vendor lock-in, then make their profit from the tools. It just seems a moot point to argue that the money doesn’t come from the runtimes themselves.
    Adobe will continue to ‘be in the Flash business’ until Flash is no longer the a profitable way of developing tools for rich web content. As a company who has by far the best editing tools for Flash, it would be insane for Adobe not to try to keep Flash around for as long as possible. Otherwise it’s just plain irresponsible to your shareholders. When you control the format it’s easier to have an effective monopoly on the tools.
    I’m not arguing that Flash isn’t the only real solution for video on the web at the moment (it is), but I really don’t understand the distinction you are making.
    When I see Adobe pushing things like this it just seems a little too much like actively encouraging vendor lock-in for my tastes.
    John, I have no reason to doubt that you would like to see a more open web, along with many of those you work with. But the intentions of the employees very rarely match the emergent goals of the business.

  35. instead of whining why don’t you spend a few versions making flash and especially the flash IDE no longer suck and maybe we would all have a bit more sympathy for you.
    [I like getting accused of “whining” by some chickenshit who hides behind a fake name/address; really sorts me out. –J.]

  36. “Clients won’t pay if their customers can’t see the work made with the tools.” and clients can’t see the work on the #1 mobile phone on the market. That’s a problem.
    [Yep. But Apple has never shied away from causing disruptions in the short (?) term to achieve their aims. You’d have gotten a 64-bit Photoshop (and presumably Final Cut Pro & other apps) long ago, but Apple decided that it’s better to require developers to port everything to Cocoa before going 64-bit. Anyway, whereas content developers had a single reliable way to reach effectively all Web users with video, vectors, etc., now they don’t. The burden will now be on them to build multiple copies of content for as long as IE retains big market share–which it will for a very long time. –J.]

  37. If Adobe was in the Flash business, the interface for Flash would be far better.
    [You’ve missed the point. Anyway, my résumé suggests that I have some sympathy for your point about the Flash Pro UI being amenable to improvement. –J.]

  38. If Adobe isn’t in the [name a product] business, and IS in the “Helping People Communicate” business, why have they just increased the price of/eliminated the Express version of/basically made it impossible for developers not employed by huge companies with big IT budgets to use LiveCycle Data Services?

  39. While you’re at it, make it render to something standard like HTML/canvas/JS/h.264 instead of trying to lock people into your own proprietary format? Since you apparently don’t make money from the runtime this shouldn’t be a problem for you.

  40. Maybe “helping people communicate” becomes a little less important, when the content of this supposed “communication” is increasingly lacking.
    The only thing I know is that I paid a lot of money for an upgrade to Photoshop CS3, which I never used, and after buying a new computer, I am often plagued by crashes.
    Adobe, Apple, or whoever else I’m not so interested to “apportion the blame”. I just expect things which are ashamingly recent to work.
    I don’t need stupid upgrades when the basic work I use my software for is constantly worsened by the “fever” of speed which afflicts the world.
    So, wonder why piracy prosper instead of following this “helping people communicate” ambiguous dream. Software protection is not an answer at all.

  41. “Its not the Axe, its the cat who plays it.”
    Flash gets a bad wrap, not because its a flawed tool, but because it requires a such a keen mastery to create compelling experiences that are accessible to everyone. Long loading times and poor performance are the inexperienced designer/developer’s fault, not the software’s fault.
    Flash is an AMAZING tool… easily the most powerful tool in a interactive designer/developer’s arsenal. And its come a long way over the years.
    Unfortunately, since the learning curve is so closely tied to its audience’s general usability, this PR issue won’t likely resolve itself anytime soon.
    Perhaps there needs to be more guidance from Adobe on best practices? Its one thing to create a robust app with incredible features and capabilities, but with Flash, its too easy for the novice to create bandwidth clogging garbage.
    I don’t have any grand solutions, but bashing the technology is like blaming the piano for a bad performance.

  42. “Adobe isn’t in the Flash business”. I guess that depends on your definition of “is”.
    [No, it depends on having the basic intelligence necessary to separate strategy from tactics. –J.]

  43. John, is it possible for you to clarify this strategy vs tactics thing that you’ve mentioned twice, rather than insulting this nice chap here?
    [You’re right, Andrew, that I shouldn’t descend into being insulting. After absorbing enough arrows & getting tired of having to explain certain things over and over, I start to slip. –J.]
    Most of us don’t see the difference between a company distributing something for free in order to build a market for something else and a company that just sells something outright.
    [It’s of course true that Adobe spends a lot of money building and distributing Flash Player in order to build a market for its tools. Without FP being widely distributed, you couldn’t get clients to pay for a certain class of work, because the critical mass of viewership wouldn’t be there. (I saw plenty of brilliant authoring tools come and go because their output couldn’t be shown in browsers, and because the creators couldn’t achieve critical mass of plug-in distribution.) Adobe absorbs this cost in order to enable the tools’ output to run. As Kevin Lynch wrote today, however, “If HTML could reliably do everything Flash does, that would certainly save us a lot of effort.”
    I’m just trying to say that everything to do with Flash is a means to an end. Whatever issues one may have with the player, Flash has been a very successful approach, for all parties concerned (Adobe, content creators, and content viewers). If and when better deployment options emerge, and if and when customers demand tools to target those runtimes, Adobe will no doubt offer the tools. (I’ve already pointed out several times that it already does, e.g. with Dreamweaver.)
    Put simply, Adobe is in the business of creating solutions, not backing any one technology to the exclusion of others. –J.]

  44. Let me write my own flash runtime plugin to display content, like i can for PDF, HTML, Video, Audio…ooohhhh..
    I cant.
    How is this an open system?

  45. To clarify:
    When on a PC, I sue foxit to view PDFs because Acrobat is bloated and ungainly.
    When on Mac, I use preview to view PDFS, because Adobe reader is bloated and ungainly.
    When on ANY machine I HAVE to use Adobe’s flash plugin run time to view content.
    So a closed system (Flash) doesnt fit with Apples view of the web (Standards).
    When Foxit can come out with a 3mb, 90% faster flash run time, we’ll talk openness.

  46. I would have to agree with you to some extend – you, Adobe, are in the tools business, as there’s no real money in Flash itself, aside from making people buy the tools.
    However, as a fair few of your tools are flash related (Builder, Catalyst, Professional etc etc) that not having Flash around would significantly harm your income. This is further enhanced by the fact that there are tools out there now that people are using instead of your products (Pixelmator instead of Photoshop, anything else instead of Dreamweaver)

  47. So John, Adobe had OVER 7 YEARS’ WARNING and advice from Apple to go Cocoa.
    4 YEARS AFTER THAT WARNING, after deciding to go 64-bit Carbon (again Apple’s advice), you throw a tizzy when 64 bit Carbon is shelved.
    And you want sympathy? You had 4 YEARS to get on the train (starting 7 YEARS AGO) but Apple is the bad guy here?
    [I didn’t ask for sympathy, or call anyone a bad guy. I said that decisions have consequences, pro and con. Don’t put words in my mouth. –J.]

  48. I wish everyone would just accept that this Flash backlash is misplaced anger over Freehand’s demise. I heard Freehand was Jobs’ favorite app, period. Of all time. He won’t even use the word “illustator” in casual conversation. Only refers to the artists as “drawing people” or, if they’re particularly good, “cartoonists with class”.

  49. Adobe sells tools yes to help creators, and that’s their core business for sure. But being (effectively) the only game in town when it comes to Flash is not healthy for anyone except Adobe. I’m sure individual employees want to do what’s right, but time and time again we’ve seen these sorts of monopolies breed a sort of institutional laziness. Is Flash all bad? No. Does Adobe need a periodic kick in the pants from their customers and companies like Apple to keep moving forward? Yup.
    So the iPhone/iPad is giving Adobe a hard time. I’m glad to see that at least some people in the company are being positive about it and using it as an opportunity to keep/regain focus. Lets hope the majority of decision makers at Adobe see it the same way.

  50. That’s a silly thing to say. Mac users don’t hate Adobe, they just wish that Adobe would give Mac versions of software the attention that they deserve. Adobe just recently made the transition from using Codewarrior I think it was to using the phenomenal XCode to do their coding. As a result of using inferior tools for too long, the Mac version of the software pale performance wise in comparison to the PC version. Flash for instance. I can run a 1080p blu-ray rip with 5.1 Audio on my Mac Pro and it uses less Processor time than running a youtube video in SD at full screen. Something isn’t right there.

  51. I wanted to chime in here because a lot of people say its not Adobe’s fault because of the lack of exposed video APIs. But VLC, using software only, still can decode 1080p rips faster than Flash can display full screen SD video.
    In the end, it doesn’t really matter “whose fault it is” (and fwiw, John definitely gets this), what matters is the user experience for Mac users. The simple truth is the Flash user experience, for Mac users running Safari/Chrome/WebKit, is almost always inferior to HTML5; and that’s all that’s going to matter to that subset of users. That’s why most Mac users I know run click to flash, and are *very* stingy about what sites they whitelist.
    Regardless of “fault,” its the end experience that users will make the final judgement call on.

  52. Perhaps Apple’s argument is not based on the quality of Flash, but instead how free Flash apps on the web would undercut their App Store business.
    [Don’t forget buying movies, music, etc. –J.]
    That would seem to be the more likely scenario. We are dealing with public companies here. Its the bottom line that counts. Always.

  53. Andrew, you are right. Platforms get created and given out for free so that ecosystems flourish around that platform. You get all sorts of fringe benefits, including selling tools and services that use that platform. You don’t control the platform, you become a follower. I mean gee wiz, it’s not like we haven’t seen this movie before.
    As examples, Adobe sells FMS and Flash Access and isn’t in the Flash business? Try selling either of these products when you don’t control the nuances of video delivery (eg. Multi-bitrate, RTMPe, etc). Or LCDS, or Captivate, etc.
    Adobe ports Flash to devices and TV because they just want to sell more copies of Flash Pro?
    Adobe depends now on Flash being present for so many of their products. Acrobat Connect, Buzzword, etc. So Adobe isn’t in the Flash business? What percentage of the company resources are now working on Flash-related projects?
    I love Adobe. I love Flash. I am knocking neither. I don’t like the iPad move. Job’s remark about Adobe being Lazy and Flash being the source of all crashes on the Mac is arogant and stupid (look at stack traces and you will see that a lot of crashes happen down in the OS, particularly after an OS update). And I would have preferred to have left just a humorous knock at JN’s parsing of the word ‘is’. But saying Adobe isn’t in the Flash business sounds desperate and dillusional.

  54. Andrew, you are right. Platforms get created and given out for free so that ecosystems flourish around that platform. You get all sorts of fringe benefits, including selling tools and services that use that platform. You don’t control the platform, you become a follower. I mean gee wiz, it’s not like we haven’t seen this movie before.
    As examples, Adobe sells FMS and Flash Access and isn’t in the Flash business? Try selling either of these products when you don’t control the nuances of video delivery (eg. Multi-bitrate, RTMPe, etc). Or LCDS, or Captivate, etc.
    Adobe ports Flash to devices and TV because they just want to sell more copies of Flash Pro?
    Adobe depends now on Flash being present for so many of their products. Acrobat Connect, Buzzword, etc. So Adobe isn’t in the Flash business? What percentage of the company resources are now working on Flash-related projects?
    I love Adobe. I love Flash. I am knocking neither. I don’t like the iPad move. Job’s remark about Adobe being Lazy and Flash being the source of all crashes on the Mac is arrogant and stupid (look at stack traces and you will see that a lot of crashes happen down in the OS, particularly after an OS update). And I would have preferred to have left just a humorous knock at JN’s parsing of the word ‘is’. But saying Adobe isn’t in the Flash business sounds desperate and delusional.

  55. John,
    I have lost faith in Adobe. With the current management I don’t think your company can get back on track. They’ll sell tons of suites and make tons of money, but they’ll loose developer mindshare, and perhaps even graphic designer mindshare too.
    In the end (5 years?) it will be ripe for the picking.

  56. Give us a break. This blog, and others run by both Adobe and Adobe-connected employees, came out with both guns blazing at Apple and the iPad in order to try to gain some momentum in the court of public opinion.
    [Hang on a sec. I’ve said from the start that I speak for myself and only for myself. Second, I haven’t come out with guns blazing at Apple or at anybody else, for that matter. If you’ve seen that from others, that’s their business, but please don’t attack me for it. –J.]
    The continued success of mobile devices that do not run Flash hastens the end of Flash the plug-in, no doubt far ahead of whatever product timeline Adobe has projected, which must affect Adobe’s bottom line.
    Unfortunately, Adobe didn’t count on uncovering a hornet’s nest of frustration —
    [Oh, I certainly did. –J.]
    bordering on hate, in some cases — which is the result of years of dealing with poor Flash implementation on several different platforms.
    So now you’re backpedaling. Yes, you are correct. Adobe is in the “helping people communicate business”. Adobe development tools will continue to thrive and people will generate countless future Flash objects, and iPhone/iPad apps, with them.
    But the readers hear can see what’s going on. Let’s everyone play it straight. It’s better for everybody — including all the involved companies — in the end.
    [I’m not bullshitting you: Flash is one way to get things done. I think the Flash team has great plans for improving it, and I think it has some important advantages over other standards. But the higher-level point is that Adobe can and does make great tools for many output types (HTML, Flash, PDF, paper, broadcast, etc.). I think it would be good to retain some healthy perspective there. –J.]

  57. “Adobe isn’t in the Flash business”. I guess that depends on your definition of “is”.
    [No, it depends on having the basic intelligence necessary to separate strategy from tactics. –J.]
    Look John, adobe sell Flash Professional, and offers the Flash player, as well as the Flash based AIR platform and tools. So yeah, Adobe IS in the Flash business.
    And based on what I have read, Adobe needs to get working on that business, either get Flash on all platforms, or embrace something else. Until such time, Adobe IS in the Flash business.
    Don’t weasel-word your way out of this, because most of us here have the basic intelligence necessary to see right through that corporate crap. Especially developers, because seeing through corporate weasel words communication is necessary to evaluate technology in this day and age.

  58. Adobe has transitioned from a company that gave its customers the best tools to one that is milking the existing tools for maximum profit with minimum investment. Or to put it more bluntly, Abobe’s idea of making tools better means making tools cheaper, not better. Google “adobe gripes” for some “it would be funny if weren’t so sad” examples of what Adobe has become.

  59. John, you ignorant slut.
    Heh. Couldn’t resist. Seriously, Adobe needs to make an HTML5-compliant video tool.
    [What do you take that to mean? That Premiere Pro, After Effects, etc. can export H.264 video? They do that today & have done it for some time. That Dreamweaver can edit VIDEO tags? Check. So what, exactly, are you after? It seems that a lot of people banging a drum about “HTML5” sure don’t know many details. –J.]
    The question is, does Adobe still have what it takes to make one – or will sit take some small developer to do it? Sounds like you have your doubts whether your own company will deliver the goods anymore.
    [Are you kidding me? Do you read “Adobe isn’t in the Flash business” as “Adobe doesn’t support Flash” or “Flash suxxxx and is gonna die LOLZ”? Did you seriously not get the point I was making? –J.]
    Can’t say you’re short on candor!

  60. Anyone who’s ever installed anything labeled “CS,” taken a Bridge-evangelizing ACE exam or read an Adobe employee’s Affliction t-shirt-like blog might argue that Adobe has been in the simple-minded distraction from solving real problems business for the better part of the last decade. You can take Flash out of the picture entirely and still reach the conclusion that Adobe has no clue what to make of the web, yet continuously embarrasses themselves by trying to pretend that they do. From the nonsense HTML generators to the PNG gamma tags everybody has to manually strip out with other tools because someone refuses to accept the notion that their spec interpretation might not actually be helping web developers do their jobs, Adobe’s never really gotten it.
    The best they’ve been able to do is buy out a big wheel down at the web factory and waste all their developers’ time shoving that one successful web product down everybody’s throats from as many different angles as possible while pretending it’s an innovation. Now we’ve got Flash in our splash screens, Flash in our UIs, Flash in our PDFs, and Flash “AIR” runtimes we didn’t even know we installed silently chewing up CPU cycles at rates previously reserved for HP drivers, all in the name of helping people communicate–what, exactly? The brand your company is suffocating with a blanket of inept leadership? The ONE Flash related feature that people might actually want–the ability to export Flash compatible documents from Illustrator–doesn’t actually work most of the time. Sick communication, brah.
    I had previously believed Lightroom to be the one exception to this deluge of useless content nobody outside of your marketing department ever asked for, but then I remembered I just deleted the web gallery module from the application bundle so I didn’t have to look at it. Whether that’s a strategy or a tactic, I don’t know, but it works great no matter what business you’re in.
    I don’t care if Adobe ever really gets it, I just want them to stop wasting time trying to be something they’re not so they can focus on fixing all the broken crap in the tools I used to love once upon a time. Hire more artists and fire more offshore cubicle MBAs.

  61. …and replaced with what? By whom?
    Warts aside, there is simply no replacement for apps like After Effects (Motion isn’t close), InDesign (Quark? Nope), and Photoshop (no, Gimp doesn’t cut it, though the image-editing category is ripe for competition). Especially from one company, allowing the apps to work well together.
    I hope this Adobe takes the opportunity to make the radical choices, be bold, and regain its focus again.
    This Flash stuff is a distraction. The ‘wisdom of the crowd’ will define what the web will be.

  62. There are plenty of free App store apps. Apple distributes them at as a loss/as a loss leader. Most of the App store apps that cost money don’t compete with free flash games. Again, the argument against flash on the iPad is more complex than that.

  63. Maybe this wouldn’t have been an issue if Adobe had been able to produce a 64bit Flash client for Snow Leopard.
    [Are you kidding me? Seriously, are you? You think that Apple would enable third-party software runtimes (which would loosen Apple’s control over the iPhone/iPad, and which enable competition with the iTunes store) if Adobe already made a 64-bit Flash Player for the Mac? Seriously?
    By the way, what is it you think a 64-bit FP will give you? Faster performance? (I suppose your hair is really whipping back on Snow Leopard because of your 64-bit Dock. Give me a break.) Lay people continue to fail to understand that 64-bit is about memory allocation, and that the other performance pros/cons are minor in comparison. It’s perfectly fine to say you want Flash Player to be faster, but don’t count on 64-bit to deliver performance. –J.]
    It has been known for over five years that Mac OS X was going to be a full 64 bit system, and that Safari would become a 64bit application. Why is Flash still 32bit only? It’s one of the main reasons why Apple had to redo the way plugins run in Safari and now run in their own process space.
    [Poor guys. Now, excuse me while we do the same work in Photoshop, After Effects, and Premiere Pro to compensate for the lack of a 64-bit QuickTime. That effort slows down the process of creating 64-bit Mac apps. (Ask the Final Cut team.) Does QuickTime even run in 64-bit mode in Safari? (Please provide evidence, not assertions.) Did they not get the memo? –J.]
    And, this isn’t just an issue for Apple. On a Windows 64 bit install, Internet Explorer runs in 32bit mode so plugins like Flash will work. Maybe if Flash was a 64 bit clean app, Microsoft wouldn’t have bothered with Silverlight.
    [Riiiiiight. MSFT has no interest in selling .NET developer tools, video servers, etc. (Man, why am I bothering to respond to all this…?) –J.]
    Five years ago, Flash only had to support two platforms: Windows on Intel and Mac OS X on PPC. Now, you have Mac OS X on PPC, Mac OS X on Intel, Windows on Intel, Windows on Atom, iPhone OS, Android, Chrome, and several versions of Linux. And almost all of these can come in both 64 bit or 32 bit flavors. Can Adobe really create Flash clients that can support all of these platforms?
    [That’s a very fair question. As Kevin Lynch and others have said, if others actually implemented standards in a reliable, broadly distributed way, maybe Adobe wouldn’t have to incur all that expense. I’d rather we got to put the dollars into building better creation tools. –J.]
    Flash was fun while it lasted. It provided a great platform that allowed PC and Mac users to view active content like games and video. But, the world is moving on.
    My suggestion for Adobe is to rewrite Flash to be based in HTML5 and JavaScript. This way, Adobe could still sell the needed development tools and help people who invested in Flash development a way to use the tools they know.
    This isn’t so far fetched. An open source project called Gordon is already attempting to decompile SWF and ActionScript and convert it over to JavaScript on the fly.

  64. Don’t like Photoshop, use GIMP? I’d compare that to: Don’t like dirt sandwiches, eat manure sandwiches. There is no meaningful competition to Photoshop and that’s a shame, because if there were, I suspect Photoshop would be a much better product that I would hopefully not dislike as much.

  65. Don’t like Photoshop, use GIMP? I’d compare that to: Don’t like dirt sandwiches, eat manure sandwiches. There is no meaningful competition to Photoshop and that’s a shame, because if there were, I suspect Photoshop would be a much better product that I would hopefully not dislike as much.

  66. I wish this were true, but I don’t see it. The test of this is how involved Adobe has been with HTML5 (not at all) because HTML5 is not a technology, it’s a treaty, a truce. It’s an agreement to de-prioritize technology to enable communication and get us out of the incredible burden that proprietary technology has placed on Web publishers, developers, and users. An agreement to have just one Web … not an IE Web, a Flash Web, a mobile Web, but just one common Web. That is the whole point of the Web.
    Adobe should not be playing inside baseball with Apple over the blue legos. Adobe should be ashamed that their customers are publishing Flash Player content on the Web without any Web-compatible fallback content. A user should NEVER see the blue lego. The fact that they have been seeing those has simply become another reason for plug-ins to go away. If they can break like that, then they have to go. By now there should not be a FlashPlayer video player on the Web that doesn’t provide the raw H.264 video file to browsers that lack a FlashPlayer. We’re 3 years into mobiles with hardware H.264 decoders being full HTML5 Web clients. While you’re braying at Apple your customers and your customers users are suffering, and the stupidest part is there’s no FlashPlayer on Blackberry or Android either. Apple hasn’t even had a chance to be a lone holdout, you have just been pretending that they are. Or maybe the stupidest part is Adobe maintaining the position that iPods can’t play video! Think about that.
    I’m a Flash user since 1997. The iPhone target in Flash is the best news in Flash development for years. An HTML5 target would be even better. I want to make a presentation in Flash and I want to Publish and I want Flash to spit out an HTML file with HTML5-spec canvas and JavaScript and video tag and so on. I want Adobe to be part of HTML5, sharing all of their knowledge of vectors and animations and interactivity and audio and video with the browser vendors (who other than Apple and Google have no idea what the hell they are doing with video) and make the HTML5 Web not just one Web for all that is easy to publish to, easy to communicate on, available from every device, but make it rich, make it flashy.
    The ball is in Adobe’s court as far as I’m concerned. If you are committed to communication, join the Web. It’s made with HTML5, not for the purposes of technology or computer scientists or vendors or tool makers, but for the purposes of communication.

  67. I think what people are missing is that Adobe probably does get it. They’re just not advertising it yet. (Apple plays their cards close to the chest, too, in case nobody noticed. Maybe Adobe just doesn’t have as many leaks, planned or unplanned.) They see the writing on the wall. I’m almost positive Adobe has people working on the post-Flash future. Maybe it’s something as straightforward as a way to compile Flash to SVG, JS, and HTML5 video. Maybe it’s something more subtle, or something even bigger. I don’t know, but Adobe didn’t get where they are by being stupid.
    Though I had to chuckle at this: “the world likes either-or, winner-loser, good guy/bad guy”. Yeah, it’s an oversimplification to generalize about Adobe-versus-Apple, but here I’m going to generalize about THE WORLD. 🙂

  68. Ken, I don’t think any rational observer would doubt Adobe has long-term strategies in mind. However, it is pretty indisputable that it would be in Adobe’s fiscal best interests if the web were to remain locked in a proprietary state of Flash for as long as possible. As posters above have noted, they’ve not been involved with HTML5 because it’s not in their corporate interests.
    Apple (and Google) are moving them along quicker than they would like, and Adobe’s attempts at “playing” the community to stem the tide seems to have blown up in their face a little bit.

  69. John,
    Great post. Please make sure that the Photoshop and Illustrator UI programmers read it. In the past few CS releases, you have started using Flash/Flex for UI components and it sucks.
    *Please* use native Cocoa and Windows controls. They are free, work as expected and look 10X better than anything done in Flash/Flex.
    Your blog gives me faith in Adobe. Please keep it up.

  70. Let’s be honest. Adobe wants end users to use Flash because it wants to sell more tools.
    “Open” or not, I still gotta buy CS4 to build anything in Flash.
    So if I’m going to “communicate” it’s gonna cost me.

  71. The problem I have with Adobe is fourfold:
    1. Installers want an admin password, even for things that don’t need this such as the DNG converter
    2. Installers do stuff that I don’t want, such as installing unpleasant plugins
    3. On the Mac, flash is a resource hog. I can live with a somewhat high CPU utilization when playing video, what bothers me is web pages that show animated ads or don’t even seem to be doing anything dynamic use up CPU time, Acrobat (Reader) takes forever to load
    4. Incessant security issues with PDF: I don’t want javascript in PDF, and I certainly don’t want the security problems that it creates.

  72. I personally suspect Apple’s primary objection to Flash is that they don’t want to invisibly cede control over the browsing experience to a third party. If Flash apps/ads/etc. cause problems in Mobile Safari, a) users of those devices will blame Apple rather than Adobe, b) Apple won’t be able to fix the problem themselves, and c) Apple won’t have any meaningful leverage with Adobe to try and get them to fix the problem either.

  73. Oh, I love Fireworks. Haven’t used it since the Macromedia days much, but it was wonderful. Nice to see there’s been some progress. It seemed like a unique hybrid of vector & pixel design. I loved being able to find & replace colors & fonts – try doing that in Photoshop.

  74. Good points. This is a bit off-topic, but what I’ve seen of their Mercury video engine – which is quite remarkable – tells me that innovation is happening at Adobe. It’s just an example, but illuminating I think. Adobe’s Labs are producing a lot of innovative ideas – by that measure it’s successful.
    What I’m not seeing is much of that innovative spirit reflected in the big flagship products. That may take more time.

  75. I think Apple are being a bit pig headed about Flash support.
    The iPad could end up being the primary web viewing device for millions of users and as a web viewing device Apple have effectively censored large sections of the web.
    Like or not, Flash is a fundamental part of the web at this point in time and should be supported at this point in time.
    Here is the way Apple should have handled it.
    1. We don’t like Flash, we think it is a pig of a thing and believe it should be eased out to be replaced by HTML 5 etc.
    2. The iPad 1 will support Flash with the option for users to turn it on/ off if so desired.
    3. Turning Flash on may result in the iPad crashing. Turn on at your own risk. Any future OS upgrades that supports multi tasking will turn Flash off by default to avoid users losing data that may result from Flash crashing the iPad OS.
    3. iPad 2 and its OS will not support Flash, so all those sites that use Flash, you have two years to change over to non Flash code if you want to reach iPad users.
    4. We look forward to working with Adobe and content creators in making the best user experience possible for iPad users in the years to come.

  76. John,
    I think the marketing droids are putting something in your water cooler.
    Adobe is in the helping people communicate business? The same virtually meaningless mission statement can be applied to Nokia, AT+T, Facebook, the U.S. Postal Service and the Oxford English Dictionary.
    Todd Dominey was able to provide a mission statement that can be applied to all your varied customers, without making me want to hit myself in the face with a brick.
    Adobe: tools for creative people.
    [There’s more to it than that. Adobe makes tools for enterprises, business customers, people needing Web site analytics, etc. It’s not just the Creative Suite anymore. –J.]

  77. “Don’t like Photoshop, use GIMP” is just silly.
    You show me an application that does what I need out of Photoshop that works even marginally well and costs less than $500 and I’ll jump up and down in excitement and buy it. GIMP is not that app, even at free, nor is Graphic Converter for most things, nor are a bunch of other, similar apps.
    Show me an alternative to Fireworks that… well, works at all, and I’ll buy it. (There’s a case where Adobe has a tool to fill a definite need that other tools do not fill, but said tool just does not work properly, and needs major overhaul.)
    Show me an alternative to RAW Camera Import that supports DNG >5 and doesn’t cost several hundred dollars and require me upgrading to CS4 and I’ll buy it. In this case it’s not that the tool doesn’t exist or doesn’t do what I want–it’s right there and does exactly what I want–it’s that it’s too expensive to justify for my need.
    The point isn’t that Adobe’s applications are useless (well, other than Fireworks)–they’re not, they’re incredibly powerful tools. It’s that they often have major problems and even when they don’t are very, very expensive.
    The reason I haven’t upgraded from CS3 to CS4 isn’t that I don’t want to use Photoshop, it’s that Adobe is in the tools business and Photoshop CS4 is a worse tool for the work I want to do than Photoshop CS3.

    As for the actual blog post, I’m glad somebody at Adobe gets it. I just wish the company would behave as if it also gets it from a product strategy. People complain because we keep getting things that either try to make us adhere to a method rather than a desired end state or just plain fail at getting us to said end state.
    The CS DRM and terrible Mac installers are an easy example. Even if the tools work perfectly, there appears to be no *technical* reason, in terms of “things that directly benefit the user, rather than the developer and via trickle-down the user in theory”, for this. Having to type in a lengthy code and deactivate/reactivate my apps does me, personally, no good at all. It makes the tools more painful to use, and harder to fix when something goes wrong. (At work I’ve needed to uninstall and reinstall CS apps several times because the DRM just plain stopped working for no apparent reason.) When I need to quit my web browsers and wait an hour for a non-standard installer, that doesn’t benefit me, personally, at all.
    These are cases where, while it’s possible *Adobe* has a need for these things, they make the *tools* worse for me, and fill no need of mine as the user.
    Flash on the Mac is another perfect example. I fully accept why people desire cross-platform, precise display of dynamic content and videos. I understand why an advertiser might want to display an in-page video advertisement that can react to clicks or user interaction. I understand why sIFR text was a significant need before web font technology was functional and widely available.
    So I understand why Flash exists–it works well to fill these needs. The problem is that in practice, the tool rendered itself undesirable due to no apparent technical constraint.
    That is, when I leave a web page open and some small advertisement in the corner causes my computer’s CPU usage to spike to 100%, my browser to slow noticeably, the underside of my laptop to make my legs uncomfortable, and my battery runtime to decrease by half, the side effects are worse than the need. When my browser crashes regularly due to ubiquitous use of said tool (prior to Safari’s new plugin sandbox) I stop caring about the need as much as I care about uninterrupted web browsing. So I end up installing FlashBlock immediately and being happier when the tool is NOT working, or working selectively, than when it is.
    Bottom line being I wish Adobe would take a step back and make the tool(s) work better rather than trying to make the tool fill more needs or considering Adobe’s needs before the user’s. Until that happens, I’m going to be in the group ragging on Adobe because I know the company WAS capable of making tools that were so good I wanted to use them, but they have recently done a more and more disappointing job of that.
    Photoshop 5 was a good example–I loved that app, because it filled my needs as a tool and did so with a minimum of frustration. I dislike PS CS3, because while it still fills my needs it also annoys me in other ways. I can’t even bring myself to use PS CS4 because it fills almost no new needs vs CS3 and adds many things that make it less pleasant as a tool.
    Here’s hoping that Adobe can get back to its focus on tools that serve the needs of the users, since their way seems to be lost in recent years.

  78. Spoken like someone who’s never tried browsing on a Mac without a Flash blocker for a few days.
    Seriously, the CPU hogging and instability of Flash itself, when compounded by countless badly-coded ads on every page on the web, is staggering. You can say “it’s because the Flash apps are bad, not because Flash is bad”, but the fact of the matter is when something is that ubiquitous and you have the only tool to display it, it’s on YOU to figure out a way to mitigate the garbage. Just like Safari does its best to mitigate 8-year-old Frontpage code when displaying the web.
    One of the most common questions I get asked, when wearing my tech support hat, is “Why is my browser/computer running so slow?” The answer, a solid 80% of the time, proves to be “Flash ads.”
    If I were Jobs and/or anyone related to the browser team at Apple, I’d be even more livid.

  79. I was thinking of more than the CS. I hope that people in need of Adobe’s website analytics, process management, or web conferencing products would be creators as well – of ideas, solutions, products, consensus.
    Sure, I’m stretching it, but in my opinion that’s better than starting with a mission statement so vague that it does nothing to highlight your USP to clients or to focus the energies of your employees.
    Anyhow, thank you for the interesting blog, sir.

  80. John,
    I admire your patience in putting up with all the flamers and retorting some of the most absurd tech hate i’ve seen in a long time.
    I still find it amazing that flash has become the target of a flame war because apple decided to block a competing runtime on one of their devices.
    I honestly believe if Microsoft did something like this (ok very different scenario but say they stopped itunes working on windows when the music store was taking off), they would have been the target of rage.
    Don’t get me wrong, flash is not without its flaws, and I accept that apple have the right to “control” their products, but some of the comments in this debate defy all sense and make no attempt to contribute to the debate or surrounding issues.
    It’s these kind of people that make me ashamed to be a nerd.
    Thanks for adding some perspective to the discussion

  81. This is kind of like taking a mainstream auto and putting a traction control switch on the dash with a big warning label attached saying DON’T PUSH THIS BUTTON UNLESS YOU KNOW WHAT YOU’RE DOING OR NEXT TIME YOU TAKE A SHARP TURN AT SPEED YOU MAY BE KILLED.
    You might make a few enthusiasts very happy. But a lot more people will probably see that warning label and decide they’re more comfortable driving a car that doesn’t need one.

  82. yes John, but Adobe’s apps have not kept pace with the growth of web communications. Imageready is vastly outdated (and does not keep in step with Photoshop’s offerings).
    [You’re aware that we discontinued ImageReady development 6 or 7 years ago and haven’t shipped the app in a long time, right? –J.]
    Dreamweaver does not empower the frontend developer to easily support ajax libraries (aside from spry which is severely limited) dreamweaver does not include a css design pattern library, does not handshake with major blog platforms.
    Flex components cannot easily be themed (requires reverse engineering).
    I could go on…
    Photoshop and Illustrator will continue to be industry standards, but it’s a shame that Flash and Dreamweaver have fallen to the way side.

  83. by the way john. thanks for your even handed discussion of Flash in particular. I’m let down on Adobe’s handling of web because I’ve been such a long time loyalist. My career has been built on the tools that Adobe’s built.

  84. I think you meant to say “Apple had over 10 years of folks filing bugs against Cocoa showing them that it wasn’t ready for prime time” and “Apple said they would support Carbon 64 bit up until a surprise announcement at WWDC, pulling the carpet out from under lots of companies that had already started their 64 bit ports”and “Apple once again forced their develoeprs to change APIs without benefit to the customer, and quite a lot of pain as the new APIs weren’t debugged or complete”.
    Really, get your history straight. Ask a developer.

  85. Apple’s only real objection is that Flash would allow apps onto the platform outside of Apple’s control. Apple doesn’t care that apps crash, or that apps don’t look like the rest of the platform, etc. They just want to control the apps.
    And the leverage is backwards: Adobe seems to fix bugs, but Apple? Apple prefers to blame the users, third party developers, anything other than admitting to bugs in their perfect OS and applications. Apple still hasn’t fixed all the GL bugs they added in MacOS 10.5.0, much less all the bugs in the iphone APIs.

  86. Apple’s restriction on Flash is troublesome. Then again, why is it, after years of 64 Bit Windows, Adobe still has not published a codec that works in x64 Explorer?
    I’m no fan of Apple — they’re anti-competitive, restrictive, monopolistic, insufferably pedantic, and could care less about customer choice. But is Adobe any different? Where, OH WHERE, is the 64 bit codec? Adfry(!!!) can do it — why not Adobe? Or maybe John, Adobe does not care about its customers either?

  87. You don’t write software, do you?
    CodeWarrior was years ahead of Xcode and gcc – in the IDE and compiler quality. gcc recently caught up, but the XCode IDE is still a throwback P.O.S. Developers kept using CodeWarrior because it was more productive. Even the developers at Apple still don’t use XCode, because it is counterproductive. Apple forced everyone to use XCode and gcc (by denying other developers access to critical information), even though they knew it wasn’t up to professional standards.
    Adobe just did what every other professional developer did: used the best tools available at the time. And that didn’t affect the quality of their code (ok, probably using better tools improved the quality, and let them write things faster) — because the code is the same, regardless of the tools!

  88. John, after all the bullshit comments – some of which you even took the time to reply to – I think I have to add one more: thanks for your balanced view and trying to bring some brains and perspective to the discussion. Even if a lot of people apparently don’t get that, it gives me hope that there are still very ambitious and intelligent people at Adobe (which is rather obvious for the engineering department, I guess if Dilbert cartoons didn’t already exist it would be about time to make some especially for Adobe, but I digress). Sure, I myself have quite a few gripes about Adobe products, but where would I be without, say, Lightroom? Let’s just call it a love-hate relationship. More love than hate, though. Keep up the good work and don’t let yourself get too frustrated by the comments, T.

  89. Gucci spam? John, have you quit monitoring this thread?
    [Of course not, but even I have to sleep for a few hours here and there. Spam should be gone now. –J.]

  90. Wow, quite a few people making comments here, really don’t have much general knowledge–and Mike, you are one of them. Adobe not being in the flash business is an allusion to a BASIC & FUNDAMENTAL business lesson: that railway companies were their own worst enemy because they thought they were in the ‘railway’ business (a tactic) rather than in the ‘transportation’ business (a strategy), and so were blind to other _transportation_ threats (such as the airlines). OK? Moving on, in this blog post, it is being argued that Adobe has to remember that Flash is just a business tactic for Adobe–Adobe’s business is about making great content creation tools. Given where the web is at right now, perhaps the best content creation tools depend on Flash. But Flash isn’t Adobe’s endgame, great/profitable tools are. That’s what this post is about.

  91. Right John. Photoshop’s slicing tools are even less robust than imageready… then again, generating image slices for standards compliant css sites shouldn’t be done with simple slices to begin with.
    My main point is that Adobe’s toolsets for preparing documents for web just feel… behind.

  92. Wow. What a post and Wow what comments. I am super grateful for what Adobe has offered us over the years. I am super grateful and thankful for what Apple has offered us over the years. If either or both were only 50% as good, 50% less, I would still be excited that these people gave me (sold me) these tools and paths for expression and commerce. I am always totally amazed when I ponder the fairy tail like speed that the technology related to all this grows. There are companies and individuals, and I wish to toast the individual efforts (altruistic, probably not, yet sincere and driven by passion- No Doubt) which combine, conflict and otherwise move. I am most excited and hopeful and passionate when I see obstacles, problems ?, resolve in a peaceful manner as opposed to a warring manner. I just seems to set up one more positive, that becomes a part of a history. History and the present state are always relative to what is next. Cheers to Adobe, Cheers to Apple, Cheers to Microsoft, and to the individual human efforts which make them up. Thanks for all who commented, and Thanks to John for living your questions.

  93. The “helping people communicate business.”
    I haven’t heard such mumbo-jumbo since I was in business school listening to the Bain/BCG/McKinsey crowd.
    The sooner you wake up and realize that Apple is trying to kill your flash product the sooner you’ll stay in the “helping people communicate business.”

  94. Since you are in the “helping people communicate business”, Can you help me and my coworkes communicate with our version cue server then?
    The adobe drive solution, sucks big time, on all platforms. Unstable at best, and garantied to fuck up your documents soner or later.
    I hate myself for updating to cs4, nothing works as it should anymore.
    Used to advocate the use of your software, now I’m looking for alternatives…

  95. As the technical director for a medical software lab, I welcomed the structure and standardization I was able to impose on a bunch of javascript developers by having them use an object oriented client side programming language viz: Flex. But, my focus must be on meeting the needs of our customers (patients and doctors) who need applications to run under almost every circumstance, including the increasing importance of mobile platforms. So, Adobe, what I need is a development environment/toolkit that lets me dictate standard libraries and architecture, without locking my self into a platform like flash. I’d like to be able to choose my compilation target – javascript or flash for example. Build me that tool and I’ll believe the credo that Adobe is really in the communication business.

  96. “You facilitate the process of delivering the content. That’s being IN Flash business.”
    Weird, I would think that when you facilitate the process of delivering the content your in the business of content delivery tools.
    The majority of Adobe’s products involve tools that output to formats which are readable by anyone (without the use of Adobe tools). I use Adobe tools for web design. Their tools are being used (by me) to output png’s, jpeg’s, gif’s, html, css, js, php, and various formats of video.
    Flash is the exception here. And even at that, why don’t you think Adobe will move to a WYSIWYG editor for HTML/Canvas/JS/etc when those technologies are mature enough to supplant the majority of things flash users are interested in flash for. Why would they continue to pour money into the runtime when they can just sell the IDE but have it target something else? The only reason they do it now is because the IDE’s of the Flash platform would be less desirable if they had to output to HTML 5 since they would loose a lot of functionality as well as have way less market share (since IE is still dominant and supports none of the ‘flash killing’ features).

  97. It’s in the helping people communicate business.
    Since when?
    I have been pounding Adobe Photoshop engineers for YEARS in trying to get them to realize the dis-service they have thrown to the industries they serve. The biggest problem with Adobe’s marketing process is that they think in single user terms and not as a global collective when designing tools for multiple users. Go look at the mess color management is within Adobe products when more then one user gets involved in a single project that may span from just and office environment to global networks. I can’t tell you enough in words how screwed up things are in the real world yet Adobe continues to keep it’s blinders on with respect to developing tools everyone can use and use in the same manner. The world has changed dramatically in the last two years. The economic tempest is geared towards low end, highly unskilled workers yet the software is constantly being updated in complexity. To me this is corporate suicide on the part of Adobe, let alone completely idiotic as well as ironic.
    So as far as Adobe doing a good job at communication for the masses, I must say you have to be kidding me in all seriousness…

  98. “It’s in the helping people communicate business.
    We’d all do well to remember that, because it means that the company’s fortunes are tied to building great tools for solving problems. If we do that well, we prosper; if we do it poorly, we fail. When we get too wrapped up in this technology or that, we lose touch with the problems that we (and more importantly our customers) are trying to solve.”
    I stumbled across this post and had a bit of a laugh. It’s a bit high minded and blinded by the do-good nature of what we’d all like to think companies are about.
    If I am correct, Adobe bought Macromedia for 3.5 Billion dollars and continues to pay the salaries of most of those employees. All on the notion that FLASH will pay dividends. That’s a hell of an investment in Flash and I don’t expect Adobe will ever abandon it, regardless of how their users want to communicate, until it pays off. And as far as I can tell, Adobe is in the hole on the Flash investment. That’s why adobe is warning it’s investors right now about Flash. The CFO seems to get it.
    If Adobe truly put users first, they would abandon the CS Suite concept and release applications on separate schedules. Right now each app team has to race toward an arbitrary deadline, and load their bloated apps with N number of features and ship regardless of the state of the app. The two features a Suite approach should promote – consistency and compatibility – haven’t happened. The apps just aren’t there yet and may never be. After 4 CS releases, Adobe isn’t much closer than it was before. What makes anyone think the 5th release will make everything suddenly work?
    I fully expect bugs and usability issues that have been around for many releases will still be there because there is no incentive to fix them. There is only incentive to add new features, because engineers want to have fun, and marketing wants to have something to crow about. But I have to use this stuff, and ignore the majority of new features.

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