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Adobe's CEO: "Our Mac Business Has Stayed Relatively Strong"

Adobe's CEO: "Our Mac Business Has Stayed Relatively Strong"

by , 9:00 AM EDT, April 23rd, 2004

When some folks got the news that Adobe was discontinuing its development of FrameMaker for the Mac they took that as a sign that there was a rift between Adobe and Apple. Indeed, many think that Adobe is abandoning the Mac platform after years of a successful relationship.

Wouldn't it be great to have a sit-down with Adobe's CEO, Bruce Chizen, and ask him some pointed questions about Apple, Adobe, Linux, and Windows? Michael Miller of PC Magazine got just that opportunity recently, and posted the complete interview of the PC Magazine Web site. Here an excerpt from the article, Interview: Adobe CEO Bruce Chizen:

Michael Miller: OK, let's talk about Mac then. Obviously most of your applications run on Mac, to some extent, fewer now than it used be to because you've pulled back in some cases because Apple was in the space.

Bruce Chizen: It didn't make sense to compete against Apple.

MM: How is the Mac platform doing in the corporate space from your perspective?

BC: When you look at our overall revenue, or percentage of revenue, we get somewhere between 22% and 25% of our business from Macintosh customers or software that runs on the Mac. If you factor out Acrobat and the server products, our Mac business has stayed relatively strong, which is good news. And I believe, at least what our customers are telling us and what our revenue is telling us in terms of mix, that those loyal Macintosh users, continue to be loyal to the Mac.

What we don't see are a lot of graphics professionals moving over, back from Windows to Macintosh, but those who are on Mac, because of all the great things that Steve [Jobs] has done, are sticking with Mac. Most of our customers are telling us they have plans to move to G5 this year, which is good news for the industry and good news for us.

MM: What about the applications, like Premiere, like Photoshop Album, things like that, that aren't currently available on Mac?

BC: The two major applications that we chose not to do on Macintosh were Premiere and Photoshop Album, and basically for the same reason: Apple already had an offer, and it doesn't make sense for us to take our resources and try to compete directly with them, where in effect they either give away the software or they have a competitive advantage that it doesn't make sense for us to try to compete against. And in the case of video, they're tied into QuickTime, they're tied right into the hardware. It was easier for us to focus in on Wintel and try to produce a more compelling solution. In the case of Photoshop Album, they give away iPhoto free. Why compete with free?

So, the good news is, Apple's serving its customers. So the customer is not getting cheated out of it, and we get to, in effect, produce a better product for the Windows customer, that doesn't have Apple producing software for them.

MM: Clearly in the video area, you had a product before Apple did. They came in; they did a nice job, no question. FinalCut is a very nice product. Are you at all worried that they're going to do that for Photoshop, or something like that?

BC: Michael, if you look at a category like digital imaging, or now even layout, Adobe has such a strong position in a market that's been around for many years. We continue to innovate, and I'd be surprised if Apple tried to compete with us in those areas. Apple has told us that's not their intent, and I don't believe they will.

There is much more in the full interview at PC Magazine's Web site.

The Mac Observer Spin:

That should allay any fears that Adobe is leaving Apple behind. The numbers Mr. Chizen quotes speak for themselves: 22% of Adobe's revenue is from products developed for the Mac. While that might sound like it's down considerably from even a few years ago, when Mac sales accounted for 40-50% of Adobe's sales, it's important to understand where Adobe makes its money. It's Acrobat, specifically Acrobat for Windows that is being sold to the corporate market by the truck load that has caused Adobe's sales to soar in recent years. Adobe's sales exploded a few years ago not because of sales of Photoshop or Illustrator for Windows, but rather because Acrobat is the Killer App in the corporate market.

The important part to focus on from Mr. Chizen is this: "If you factor out Acrobat and the server products, our Mac business has stayed relatively strong..." In other words, Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, and the company's other pro graphic design apps are doing well in the Mac market.

We also certainly agree that it makes no sense for Adobe to compete with Apple with a product that is, essentially, free. iPhoto in particular leaves no room at all for Photoshop Album. This is especially true when Apple's market share in the consumer space is relatively small.

Premiere, on the other hand, was competing with a product that was not free, Final Cut Pro, in a market where Apple has considerably more than 3-5% of the installed user base. In fact, the pro DV market, Premiere's market, is one of Apple's strongest, and there is room for competing products, as long as they are of good quality. When it comes to this market, Adobe was simply out-performed by Apple's offerings.

Adobe chose to compete where there are easier pickings, instead of duking it out with Apple in the Mac market. While it is reasonable to say that this is simply sound business, we think the characterization that Adobe abandoned the Mac market is incorrect. A better characterization would be that Adobe was out-maneuvered, and out-performed in the Mac DV market.

In the meanwhile, we are confident that Adobe and Apple are getting along fine, more or less; Adobe isn't about to do away with 22% of its revenue.

Now, all that said, we have a bit of simple advice for Apple if it wants to once again become (more) important to Adobe: Build your corporate business. If Apple sold more seats to this very lucrative market, Adobe would sell more copies of Acrobat for Mac, and that would greatly elevate the company's importance to Adobe. So far, however, Apple doesn't seem at all interested in this space.

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