Adobe Eyes Linux Desktop Strategy

By Matthew Hicks  |  Posted 2004-11-04

Adobe Eyes Linux Desktop Strategy

Signs are pointing to a growing interest in desktop Linux and open-source software at Adobe Systems Inc., the maker of popular imaging and graphics software and the standard-bearer of PDF.

While details of its Linux and open-source plans remain scarce, the San Jose, Calif., company has joined a major Linux-advocacy group and is hiring engineering and business development employees focused on desktop Linux.

An Adobe spokesperson on Thursday confirmed that Adobe joined the Open Source Development Labs in July.

OSDL, based in Beaverton, Ore., is the home of Linux creator Linus Torvalds. The non-profit group focuses on increasing enterprise adoption of Linux and runs testing facilities. Its founding members include computing heavyweights such as IBM, Hewlett-Packard Co. and Intel Corp.

Also this week, two job postings have surfaced on the companys Web site that point to more aggressive Linux plans at Adobe.

One opening is for a director of Linux market development, who would examine desktop Linux and open-source strategies and work with leading Linux distributors.

The other posting hints at plans for Adobe to run open-source projects itself. It is for a senior computer scientist/Linux desktop architect in Adobes platform strategy group. Along with guiding Adobes desktop Linux work, the person would "become a maintainer and/or architect for one or more Adobe-sponsored open source projects," the job posting stated.

In an interview Thursday, Pam Deziel, Adobes director of product marketing for Acrobat, said she was not aware of Adobe-specific open-source projects but that the company was involved in OSDL projects.

She downplayed indications of a major Linux and open-source shift at Adobe.

"What were trying to do is to make sure we have a good picture and roadmap for the Linux market overall," Deziel said. "Right now, what we see is a bigger business opportunity on the server side, but were looking to hire resources to keep abreast of Linux market overall."

News of Adobes OSDL membership and Linux-oriented job postings were first reported on CNET

Adobes enterprise business offers Linux versions of many of its server products under its LiveCycle brand, which launched in June. Deziel said Adobes Intelligent Document Platform server products are moving under the LiveCycle umbrella and will support Linux, but she did not provide a timetable for the move.

Interest and demand for Linux on the desktop is growing, said IT analyst Amy Wohl, who was not surprised that Adobe could be working on a firmer Linux strategy.

"Theres enough activity at the desktop level that ISVs have to start thinking about what they want to do," said Wohl, president of Wohl Associates, in Narberth, Pa.

Click here to read about Red Hats Linux desktop plans.

Adobe, for the most part, has not embraced Linux for its desktop software products, such as popular imaging, graphics and design products like Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign. Deziel said the business opportunity for Adobe desktop products on Linux does not yet exist and that the opportunity in the future is "tough to predict."

For now, Adobe may still view the desktop Linux market as too young to port its desktop software to Linux, Wohl said. But the company could find opportunities in emerging markets for Linux desktop software such as overseas and in the education field, she said.

Next Page: PDF and Linux.

PDF and Linux

The PDF standard itself could be propelling Adobe into a desktop Linux and open-source strategy, Wohl said. As Linux gains ground on desktops, Adobe will want to maintain PDFs importance and dominance there.

"Theyre always very concerned about maintaining their standards," Wohl said.

The companys flagship Adobe Reader is available for Linux as well, but the Linux version lags releases for Windows and Mac OS X. Linux is available with Adobe Reader 5.0 but not for the most recent release, Adobe Reader 6.0.

Deziel said Adobe is working on an updated version of the Adobe Reader for Linux but declined to say when it would be available.

Click here to read an eWEEK Labs review of Adobes Creative Suite.

Adobe has made past Linux overtures. In 1999, the company released a beta version of its FrameMaker authoring and publishing software for Linux, but never launched a commercial release.

More recently, in June, Adobe announced plans to extend its PDF standard and the Adobe Reader software for reading PDF documents to consumer devices running embedded Linux. It said that Sony Corp. would be the first to use the embedded Linux support for a car-navigation system in Japan.

Editors Note: This story was updated to include more information and comments on Adobes Linux plans.

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