Competition from Microsoft

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2008-09-25 Print this article Print

Q: How do you innovate on the cloud side?

A: AIR, for example, is a combination of client processing and cloud. It is a way to deploy a Web application that runs on your local computer, but it integrates multiple services in a unified fashion. Right now inside browsers a Web application can really only talk back to the domain they came from. So it's hard for a client side application on the Web today to actually integrate multiple services. You have to do that on the cloud side right now. And so what we're doing is we're providing access to cloud services from multiple vendors in one application on the client. So we're able to enable direct access to multiple cloud services that might not be aware of each other.

Then we're providing some hosted services ourselves. Like Share, which enables collaboration across documents; Connect, which is real-time audio/video collaboration; and, which enables people to not only share photos but edit them.

The third thing is about social computing. The Internet has connected us all and that is changing how we do most things. So it's no longer a solo experience. You are actually present with other people while you're using applications. And you want to be able to do things like tag the applications, you want to benefit from the group knowledge, you want to be able to rate things, you want to communicate with people while you're using those applications. So that social aspect of computing is a big change. And if applications don't embrace that social aspect then you're going to start to feel left out.

So those are the three things we'll be talking about in depth at Max. Each of these is on the same scale as the introduction of the graphical user interface in the '80s, but they're all happening at the same time. So I think this is a highly disruptive time in the software space.

Q: Are you looking at other hosted services?

A: Yes. Across all the ways that we make software, we're looking at what makes sense to deliver on the client side and what makes sense to deliver as a hosted service. If you look at and, which are two of our largest brands, you'll see how we moved them to hosted services, and you'll see more of that from us. And we're doing it in an iterative open way with the community.

Q: How's the competition with Microsoft been? You guys have been going in sort of the same direction on a few things.

A: Well, I would characterize it more as we've been going in an innovative direction for a long time at Adobe in terms of enabling people to express themselves with tools, get great clients out across the Web and get great server side experiences. And what I see now is Microsoft starting to target each of those areas that we continue to innovate in and that we've been leading on for decades. But that is more of a following position than an innovative position. If you look at Silverlight versus Flash, for example, we've been deploying Flash on the Web for a decade to great success. There is no other technology that's as widely distributed as Flash today. And that's only possible because it has provided a great benefit to people around the Web. The way Flash gets installed is it's used on Web sites and people go to that Web page to see content and it says you need to have Flash Player to see this. That's the dynamic. It's a virtuous cycle. Getting that flywheel to spin is very difficult. So Flash is incredibly successful. And we haven't seen any impact or lessening of Flash's momentum so far. In fact, acceleration is what we're seeing. Flash came from nowhere on video. By incorporating video in Flash Player across the Web, almost overnight we saw this incredible revolution and now over 90 percent of video streaming on the Web is actually in the Flash format.

But if you look at AIR, Microsoft has no solution in that space right now. While it's competing with Flash via Silverlight, there is no competition for AIR right now from Microsoft. Except maybe from Windows, but that's an operating system. And AIR runs across operating systems. So that's kind of missing the point to say a particular OS is competing with AIR.

In tooling, Creative Suite 4 is just the best in the world at enabling people to express themselves. I would say Creative Suite is really light years ahead of where Microsoft is coming in with tooling. So we're just going to keep focusing on our customers, working to innovate and not be distracted by how we might be pursued in some cases.

Darryl K. Taft covers the development tools and developer-related issues beat from his office in Baltimore. He has more than 10 years of experience in the business and is always looking for the next scoop. Taft is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and was named 'one of the most active middleware reporters in the world' by The Middleware Co. He also has his own card in the 'Who's Who in Enterprise Java' deck.

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