Apple’s Gamble: Hiring Kevin Lynch Away from Adobe

| Analysis
Apple just hired away Adobe CTO Kevin Lynch to serve as its new Vice President for Technology. Mr. Lynch is the man that openly defended Flash as a must-have platform, saying that the iPhone was doomed to failure because it didn't support the system, which will probably make for some interesting water cooler conversations in Cupertino.

Apple hire's Adobe Flash man Kevin LynchApple hire's Adobe Flash man Kevin Lynch

Mr. Lynch will report to Apple Senior Vice President of Technologies Bob Mansfield, according to AllThingsD, and Adobe has no plans to replace him. Instead, his duties will be handed over to division leaders. The company said in a statement,
 
We will not be replacing the CTO position; responsibility for technology development lies with our business unit heads under the leadership of Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen. Bryan Lamkin, who has recently returned to Adobe, will assume responsibilities for cross company research and technology initiatives as well as Corporate Development.
 
So apparently Adobe doesn't think it needs a Chief Technology Officer any more. Adobe may be seen as a design company because it makes Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator, Dreamweaver, and yes, Flash. It also now has its own cloud-based software subscription service called Creative Cloud, manages online storage and collaboration, is the company behind PDF, and helped kick start the desktop publishing industry with PostScript.
 
In other words, Adobe is a technology company, yet it doesn't see the need to have a CTO. If Mr. Lynch's position wasn't necessary, I have to wonder why Adobe kept him around for so many years.
 
Mr. Lynch's relationship with Apple over the past few years has been somewhat colorful. When Adobe was openly fighting to get Apple to allow Flash on the iPhone, Mr. Lynch said that by blocking Flash support iPhone owners weren't able to enjoy the full Web experience. He also said Adobe was working with Apple to improve Flash performance and security on the Mac.
 
As new Mobile Flash updates rolled out Mr. Lynch would point out that the platform was supported on BlackBerry and Android OS, along with offerings from Palm and Nokia, adding that Apple was behind the curve and the iPhone less desirable because Flash wasn't there. In the end, Adobe abandoned Mobile Flash in favor of HTML5 after mobile device makers turned their backs on the platform.
 
Apple's disdain for Flash, however, wasn't always there. The company embraced the platform early on, and included Flash as part of its standard Mac OS installation for years. Mac owners can still install Flash if they like by visiting the Adobe website, but it isn't included when you buy a new computer.
 
Mr. Lynch championed Mobile Flash up until the bitter end, which raises the question: Where does he fit in the Apple system? He'll be coordinating the hardware and software teams which is similar to what he did at Adobe, so he has years of experience to bring to the table, plus he showed a passion for Adobe's products during his tenure there.
 
Experience and passion make for a nice mix, but there's also the fact that he championed Flash even as the rest of the technology world was moving on. If his public support was just part of his job, that's understandable. If he genuinely believed, however, that Flash was the future of online media and that the platform wasn't in trouble, that could be a problem for Apple in that he could throw his resources at the wrong projects.
 
Snapping up Adobe's Flash champion also brings with it the stigma of bad hiring choices for Apple CEO Tim Cook. The retail mess the company dealt with after hiring -- and quickly firing -- John Browett raised concerns over Mr. Cook's hiring decisions. If Mr. Lynch doesn't work out for the company, that will only help reinforce those concerns.
 
That said, Mr. Lynch has the potential to be a strong player in the Apple executive team. And right or wrong, his Flash history will keep him under close watch to see if he was a good hire or if Apple went down the Browett path again.

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Comments

mlvezie

Any word on how much Adobe paid Apple for the deal?

Lee Dronick

Mr. Lynch is the man that openly defended Flash as a must-have platform, saying that the iPhone was doomed to failure because it didn’t support the system, which will probably make for some interesting water cooler conversations in Cupertino.

As an Adobe employee he had to say those things about Flash wether he believed them or not.

plus he showed a passion for Adobe’s products during his tenure there.

Maybe we will get some Creative Suite killer apps from Apple.

FlipFriddle

Lee, there’s nothing I would love to see more is some real alternatives to CS. I use it everyday, and it’s great in most regards, but damn has it not really gone anywhere in years. 6th iteration of a “suite” and they STILL have dozens of major interface differences, no common type engine, etc. Quark is out, someone needs to give them some competition.

ctopher

Complete conjecture here (get what you pay for)...

I think both Mr. Dronick and Mr. Gamet are correct. He truly believed Flash was the best platform for rich web based content. He might have been cheering in public and whipping in private trying to get Flash to play nice on mobile platforms.

Perhaps he left because while Adobe backed the cheering, they may not have been able to back the technical issues. As FripFriddle notes above, their suite is not consistent even after all these years. Could it be corporate disdain or lack of will? Or is it just too difficult a task.

Anyway, I prefer to think of people as sincere, and that while he really believed in Flash, Adobe wasn’t willing or able to execute.

I wonder if they hired him to be the public cheerleader for all things Apple?

Lee Dronick

I wonder if they hired him to be the public cheerleader for all things Apple?

Perhaps, what is his personality? If he has a combination of being very technically savvy and has good stage presence then he may be what is needed.

As FripFriddle notes above, their suite is not consistent even after all these years. Could it be corporate disdain or lack of will? Or is it just too difficult a task.

It could be all of the above.

Bazz

Simply its his guift of the gab—- no one in Apple since SJ has it!

iJack

But if you don’t have Flash, aren’t you missing out on a lot of web videos, etc.?

Dave

Spot On

me again...

Whether it was Apple’s doing or not, too many have been left with the impression that apple has or at one point catered for graphics professionals (I don’t mean the garden variety of graphics professionals, I really mean high end). It never really has and it’s focus is now even more laser beam streamed on high quality consumer goods.

The high end of Apple’s consumer line, the BTO’d iMacs are in fact so good that you can throw all manner of professional graphic tasks at them and not suffer horribly.

However with Apple being so flush for cash I can never quite understand why it is prepared to look stupid in areas where many feel it could excel. How many Apple execs have claimed it wasnt first about the money but about the burning desire to build their customers truly great experiences (products). If they really are chasing kudos then surely they would plug Apple’s glaring gaps at the high end of the graphic and visual computing.

Mr. Cook tried to say sorry for not doing so with the last round of Mac Pros and is supposedly hinting at special stuff to replace them. However it’s just going to be more of the same if all we get is another Mac Pro, there is so much more tech that needs to become viable, stable and better integrated with the Apple/Mac experience if the next Mac Pro isn’t going to go the way of last generation models.

Thats the sort of thing a good CTO should be charged with and it would be nice to think that Mr. Cook wasn’t just pre announcing another big powerful and expensive PC but was hinting at better way forward for its most demanding customers.

Perhaps Kevin Lynch will be part of that.

Dave

“But if you don’t have Flash, aren’t you missing out on a lot of web videos, etc.?’

As a Flash developer i can honestly say

NO

TexasUser

“But if you don’t have Flash, aren’t you missing out on a lot of web videos, etc.?”

Only if you care about advertisements…

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