What Should Apple Do About Adobe?

There was a time, long ago, when Adobe was a hip company under John Warnock that made great products complementary to Apple. Nowadays, however, Adobe just seems to be a thorn in the side of Apple. What can be done?

The list of sins that Adobe has committed just keeps growing. I'll list the impressions I've gleaned over the last year. The Adobe Create Suite has been a source of problems for many, creating instabilities in their systems. Adobe doesn't seem to adhere to the latest and best practices for software development on the Mac, instead, pursing their own idea of how development should be done. Security issues in Acrobat reader and Flash have been notable. Adobe has provided Mac users, who use only the Flash plug-in, with no automatic update mechanism. Apple solved that problem in its latest Security Update by including the latest version and forcing an update -- essentially a kick in Adobe's teeth.

And then there is, as we well know, the latest ruckus about Flash not being supported on the iPhone and recently announced iPad. Apple doesn't think Flash is secure enough and would rather move to open standards.

And there we sit.

Apple is betting that those who want to jump on the cash bandwagon of the iPhone and iPad will give up on Flash, or a least add support Apple's way of doing things. On Wednesday, a rumor was posted at TechCrunch about how Hulu might, repeat might, be coming to the iPad, sans Flash.

Even if Hulu were to come to the iPad, sans a Flash player, it wouldn't be the end of Adobe as a company. Sure, they'll take a hit, but Adobe will survive even if Flash falls by the wayside. It might take many years.

Some believe that Apple should buy Adobe and put most of the current execs out to pasture. History has shown, however, that Apple only buys successful companies that can make a contribution to Apple. Apple stays away from failing companies* or companies that wouldn't make immediate contributions to Apple's strategy. Even so, it would be a delicious sight for many if Apple were to buy Adobe, fire all the VPs, clean up the product line, and motivate the programmers to start writing a new breed of brilliant, Mac savvy Cocoa apps.

There would also be antitrust issues with Apple acquiring Adobe because they compete in so many areas. Plus, Apple would be forced to maintain a lot of of PC apps that Adobe has built -- something Apple would have little interest in.

Apple's current approach is to bust Adobe when it can, say, on the Flash issue, and try to build better products than Adobe, for example, Aperture vs. Lightroom. Perhaps the thinking is that a company so poorly run will eventually move from shooting itself in the foot to something more drastic.

Meanwhile, Apple is doing everything it needs to do to flourish. Adobe is a very small thorn that can be, for now, simply ignored.


John Gruber, The $64,000 Question" (Some history on CS4, Carbon, Cocoa)

Robert Cringely, "Why Apple Will Buy Adobe"


* Not that Adobe is one of those.  But also see my comment below.