Friday, October 05, 2007

Adobe revisited

Six months ago, I said Adobe had better put together an internet strategy quickly, or risk going under. They delivered.

Adobe have a new internet strategy, and very impressively managed it is - they're driving pretty aggressively to use their new AIR / Flex platform to build an array of online services. Just this last month we've had announcements about online Photoshop Express, Online visual programming, online word processing, online file sharing, and online voice, messaging and presence.

Apart from the sheer breadth and depth of these developments, they're impressive for being cleverly tailored to expose specific browser weaknesses: animation, pagination, and realtime communications.

The browser within the browser

Most people see Microsoft's Silverlight and Sun's JavaFX as Adobe's chief competition. But they'll have a hell of a job catching up with Adobe's 93% market share, not to mention their best in class development and design tools.

No, the real competition for Flash is the browser itself. Adobe have two to three years until most browsers come with native video and audio players, and increasingly powerful layout and programming engines. They're rushing to fill this gap with their own proprietary technology, hoping to sell design and programming tools, not to mention Flash-based web applications.

Flash is the browser within the browser - displaying text and images, in addition to diagrams, sound and videos. Some websites - e.g. Sony Ericsson - leave little room for HTML.

So Adobe look to be winning the "Rich Internet Application" market. The question is, how will RIAs fare against straight HTML / javascript?

Betting against the internet?

Adobe claims to be betting that the internet will beat client applications. Technically, they're correct - they're relying on TCP/IP, HTTP and the URI. But they're not betting on the web, because the web is about HTML and CSS, not proprietary Flash plugins.

HTML/CSS vs Flash will be a fascinating race. It'll take about two years to know the winner; will Ogg/Theora beat Flash video? Can SVG ever compete for vector graphics? Can browsers handle animation natively? Will flash text and layout ever displace HTML?

My heart says HTML/CSS will win; my head says it will come down to the wire.


Unknown said...

Opera does SVG animation in the browser and i believe it's not the only one anymore.

Chris Jay said...

SVG animation is a start, and it could take off if someone wrote an easy animation design website (not a client "design tool"...) for non-IE browsers.

But animation is about more than SVG - what about declarative animation of CSS, or of HTML?