Famous Apple blogger C.K. Sample III wrote a piece this weekend on Adobe and their opportunities for iPad development. I think his premise is sound and I wanted to add a couple more growth areas for Adobe.
First, a little background. For the uninitiated, Adobe makes some excellent content creation software. Not the least of which includes Photoshop (the pre-eminent image/photography editing app) and Flash (one of the most ubiquitous ways to develop and distribute on the ‘net).
Unfortunately for Apple, development on Flash for Mac OS has lagged behind its Windows counterpart for quite some time. This has become an obvious thorn in the side of Steve Jobs. Evidence of this exists in Mac OS X 10.6 including a feature that maintains stability of its web browser (Safari) in the event of a Flash-induced crash.
The friction between Apple and Flash (and subsequently Adobe) really came to a head in 2007 when the iPhone was released with lack of Flash support in its mobile version of Safari. Long story short, there has been a constant back-and-forth between the two giants and the battlefield has been in the media with no end in sight.
C.K. believes that a strong move for Adobe would be to port Photoshop to the iPad. They have a strong brand in Photoshop and a well-designed/developed app at a good price would sell like hotcakes. I am inclined to agree with C.K. but I also think Adobe can do more.
1. Re-tool Flash to take advantage of HTML5 and CSS3
For starters, recall that Flash is used to make it easy for developers to create rich and engaging experiences on the Web. I believe there is still a market opportunity here but it will require Adobe to abandon Flash as a proprietary form of content. Instead, Adobe will use its Flash chops to create content using the latest web technologies available with HTML5 and CSS3.
Adobe isn’t making money on the distribution of Flash-created content so it stands to reason that embracing the future of the Web and pushing the bounds of imagination (as they did in the 90s) would result in a solid win for Adobe.
A bonus is that Apple has no filter on web content that is viewed with mobile Safari (as it does with its App Store). Using this knowledge, Adobe could pioneer the web-as-platform movement and really stick it to Apple and its App reviewers by enabling developers to release whatever they want without any interference.
2. Take advantage of the iPad as an accessory to Photoshop
Many users of Adobe’s application Photoshop also make use of drawing tablets from such companies as Wacom. The devices are simply flat “screens” (most of them don’t actually display anything) that allow the user to interact with Photoshop using a “pen and paper” inspired interface.
Adobe could create a “tablet interface” that makes use of the iPad and it its Wi-Fi connection. Wacom’s least expensive tablet which features an LCD screen is $999, which is a large pill for anyone to swallow. Apple’s iPad starts at half of that price and includes hundreds of features not seen on Wacom’s Cintiq line of tablets.
Granted the iPad is not as full-featured as the Cintiq (it features a slightly smaller screen and a lower resolution), at $49 for a (theoretical) wireless, tablet-based, Photoshop-interfacing application it’s hard to ignore. There may be other development hurdles here — for instance, a Photoshop “server” would have to be running on your computer in order for the iPad app to work.
Still, a multi-touch tablet interface to Photoshop that is built on top of a gadget many people already own isn’t something that is easily ignored.
In summary, Adobe has several areas to explore before throwing in the towel and, in my opinion, should really stop their childish Internet whining. After all, Apple could easily purchase Adobe (ADBE market cap = ~$19B at the time of this writing) using its stock pile of cash reserves and still have a measly $20B leftover.