Adobe wants to be the next Microsoft.

You may think I've been a little to pre-occupied with Adobe and often wonder "what the hell has this to do with Microsoft", well after reading a very interesting set of blog posts by Ted Leung, I've finally settled on an explanation :

Here it is:

I've been following your post's with great interest, and I often wonder - especially now that I work for them - why being a "Microsoft" is a bad thing (another discussion I think for another day).

That being said, the history of Flash and its evolution has been somewhat of a funny thing. In that, here's a product that's got great depth in terms of seeding but really not being used to its full potential. There is a pletora of features and functionality that goes un-used in Flash Platform today but the basic primatives, such as "Audio, Video and Animation overall" are the prime usage for it.

In 2002, the RIA dream was painted with broad strokes by Jeremy Allaire. It was a great read, but those of us in the trenches, simply had to roll up their sleeves and begin punching away - part code, part-timeline. It was a lengthy but at times worthwhile process and the result was "fun". Yet, production teams got bored with the waiting, which in turn ended up in frustration and the whole "bah lets go back to HTML" remarks started to arise.

Macromedia at the time, identified that if the RIA dream were to be adopted, they'd need to provide a much easier approach to RIA development. Royale (aka FLEX) was born.

Yet, this for me was the day when the first hints that the Flash Player used to "slap that monkey" or "basic RIA" was suddenly geared towards Enterprise. I mean, the price tag of FLEX 1.0 signaled to the followers of Flash "You have to pay to be in this game buddy" and so - despite my 2004 vocal reaction to the price tag - Macromedia continued to play this path and see what the future would hold.

Sales weren't good (reported to be 100 units a month world-wide) and those who did buy, never marketed the fact they did.

FLEX 2.0 is put on the table, now at this point in time is when AJAX was gaining a lot of momentum (which I must admit, suprised most) so did Adobe/Macromedia react and give the SDK away in hope of attracting the AJAX`ers back to the potential of FLEX. The waters were already muddied with the price tag, so the word FREE has cropped and a fair whack of developers/designers jumped in and are paddling around as we speak.

Here inlies the problem.

What is the Flash Platform now, is it a multimedia platform enabling the interactive designer whom gave it momentum the ability to conjure more and more sites and games - or - has it become more of an enterprise agent, enabling user experience models to creep into the corporate firewalls.

I think to be honest, it's trying to be both but in order to reach full maturity potential, something needs to give. If it's to compete with products like Windows Forms, Oracle Forms and even HTML Forms it needs to open up more, and so client-side reach is required.

Apollo is coming up on the horizon, there is a lot of expectation placed up on it and one feature kind of stood out like a red-headed step child - PDF Support/integration.

Funny, I don't recall Flash Paper getting that much success when it was on the table - other then via Coldfusion. I also don't recall seeing a lot of Flex / Flash Designers begging and pleading with Macromedia at the time to embark on a PDF integration roadmap.

I do recall though, seeing Adobe at last years WebDU, shortly after the merger talking about this "Live Cycle" product to a room full of folks whom never heard of it - most at time's asking "what the hell does this have to do with the web".

I now recall talk about Coldfusion 8 and Live Cycle integration, and specifically with Coldfusion 8 integration with .NET - yet - Adobe Flex Data Services and with Adobe LiveCycle Services on the horizon (FLEX integration) what does that mean?

I would say this Ted, you're partially correct in saying Adobe want to be the next Microsoft - in that - they are looking at the Enterprise world with a keen eye and a glimmer of hope. They realistically can't grow the design market any further then they already have - one could say they own that market.

They need to expand their portfolio and while its a romantic notion that Flash Platform is just an innocent piece of technology used in innocent ways - it does - however have its own agenda and being locked inside a platform specific player is only helping that notion forward.

Apollo will be more of an "expansion pack" to the player if you will and it will look at making client-side x-platform specific (yet to see more information around Linux support I guess) but at what limitation and cost does this imply.

I really see no difference now with regards to Flash and .NET 3.0 - both have similiar breeds, both are I guess platform specific and each have their own unique pro's and con's. Flash is a noble cause to generate X-Platform centric ideals, but in reality it also has scale issues around it - even with the advancements of AVM++ it still has performance issues in terms of scaling outward.

I apologise for the rant but I have to say you're right in most parts - just look at the upcoming products, focus on the features and at the back of your mind ask the question "how does this product relate back to Adobe Live Cycle"

I'm not faulting Adobe about it - but - I do kick up a stink or two when they hide behind the "we're in it for the web guy/gal" approach to things.

This of course could all be a conspiracy theory ;)

Scott Barnes
Developer Evangelist,
Microsoft.

Update: I changed the title (Old: Adobe is the next Microsoft - to - Adobe wants to be the next Microsoft), as when I posted it I assumed Ted's title was the same but turns out it wasn't the case, as I wanted to mirror his title - See that's what happens when you blog before going to bed!