Apple's Gamble: Hiring Kevin Lynch Away from Adobe

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.