Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Adobe's internet strategy

Adobe occupies a unique position in the market. With a focus on desktop graphics technology, it has also branched out into document workflow (Acrobat) and website design (Dreamweaver).

This focus on desktop applications is a weak point. As applications migrate to the browser, Adobe will have to change to avoid being taken over by internet-based competitors. So far, its attempts to cater for the internet have ranged from the hugely successful (Flash) to the barely begun (Photoshop).

So I've tried mapping out what Adobe should be like in a couple of years, after executing an ambitious internet strategy.

Adobe the hosted service provider
You can imagine logging on to (or your hosted site), viewing and uploading your videos, images and websites, and editing them online via your browser.

This takes Adobe beyond Google's YouTube and Picasa, by enabling online editing and private hosting. And Dreamweaver is replaced with a website hosting service, where professionals can log in and edit the site.

But end users will also log in to create their own webpages, like a blogging tool that enables images, tables, columns, videos, etc. This is the word processor of the internet age - a massive opportunity, and it should be a core competency for Adobe.

I've also decided that Adobe should lose its proprietary PDF file format, in favour of standard HTML and SVG. There are only three reasons why PDFs are popular - because everyone can read them, hardly anyone can edit them, and their conversion from other file formats (e.g. MS Office) is high quality. But everyone can read HTML and SVG / VML too, website permissions can be more tightly controlled, and Adobe can re-use that file conversion knowledge on their web hosting site.

Adopting an internet strategy
Here are the future products:

  • A browser plug-in for playing video and audio
  • An online hosting service for video, audio, and images (both raster and vector), with integrated online design functionality.
  • Offline desktop versions of the video, audio and image design tools (useful for editing large files)
  • A website hosting service, with integrated online website design tools (including a service for perfectly converting old office documents to webpages)
Here are the products it should no longer sell
  • Acrobat reader - the PDF format is replaced with HTML and SVG / VML
  • Desktop web design tools e.g. Dreamweaver
  • Flash vector graphics - vector graphics are handled in the browser by SVG / VML

Massive opportunity
Because the industry is changing so quickly, there are massive opportunities in Adobe's market. Adobe has a lot of valuable experience - such as file format conversion, graphics technology, and website design - that will stand it in very good stead.

But to take advantage of these opportunities, Adobe has to adopt an internet strategy of moving away from desktop applications towards a hosted model.

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