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Adobe and the Future of Software

| by Jon Rose Follow 0 Followers on Oct 24, 2007. Estimated reading time: 3 minutes |
Adobe has been up to some interesting things of late from their work with Adobe Flex, to their efforts on the Adobe Integrated Runtime (AIR), and their recent announcement that they intend to move all of their software to the web in a model know as Software as a Service (SaaS). As with all the leading software vendors, Adobe has a picture of where software is going and wants that future to be on their platform.

Charlton Barreto’s Digital Walkabout blog summarized the SaaS announcement from the Adobe MAX conference:
At MAX and Web 2.0, Adobe announced how it is shifting all of their apps online, transforming them into Software as [a] Services [SaaS], although it would probably be about 10 years for such a shift to be complete.
In Adobe’s view, this is not a shift that will happen overnight. Adobe Systems CEO, Bruce Chizen, gave time ranges from 10 to 20 years, telling pcworld.com in interview just prior to the Adobe Max conference it may take 20 years:
PCWorld.com: Do you agree the future of software delivery is that SaaS/hosted model?

Chizen: Eventually. The key is how long does that take. It depends on the application and on broadband capabilities. I'm smart enough to say that will be in 20 years probably.
Chizen and pcworld.com discussed one of the early examples of Adobe offering software in this model with Premiere Express. In addition to a shift in how the applications are delivered, Chizen touched on the possibility of the revenue model being advertising based:
It [Premiere Express] lets consumers do simple video editing. We offer it through partners like Photobucket [and MTV]. Some of those business models are advertising-based. We'll continue to experiment.
Chizen does see challenges in moving applications to the Web. Reuters’ quoted him speaking at the MAX conferences saying:
"The desktop is a powerful, powerful machine in which to run applications. Broadband, as quick as it gets, is still going to have some limitations in the short term," said Chizen in a question-and-answer session on stage at the conference.
Along with moving their desktop applications to the Web, a more immediate part of Adobe’s strategy centers around the AIR platform. The AIR platform lets developers use web technologies to build desktop applications and deploy them in the AIR runtime. Chizen breaks down the AIR platform for pcworld.com:
PCWorld.com: Why is the AIR approach preferable to building an offline component for browser-based applications, along the lines of what Google is doing with Google Gears?

Chizen: For some applications, the browser is great and having offline capabilities will be a great extension. But for other applications we want complete control over the user experience [and the browser is inadequate.]

That's where we really differentiate: the ability to go a little further in local capabilities, the ability to drag and drop easily from the desktop to the application and back. Those things would be tough to do with a browser. And some applications, you want to stay in them and don't want to be encumbered by a browser. You want local presence and that's where we really shine.
A key AIR example application is Buzzword, a word processing application, which was developed in Flex and has a version that runs on the desktop using the AIR platform. Adobe recently announced that they are acquiring Virtual Ubiquity, creators of Buzzword. Chizen explained the motivation for the acquisition to pcworld.com:
What excited us about Buzzword wasn't being in the word processing business, but that it's a great example of what AIR can do. It also fits really nicely into our Acrobat document collaboration strategy.
Adobe is clearly creating a lot of buzz with Flex, AIR, and their SaaS strategy, but it is still unclear how significant Adobe’s role will be in the future of software.

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The future is now by Stuart Stern

For many apps, SaaS is more a change in billing model than anything else. Adobe for example could deliver PhotoShop "as a service" simply by adding a metering mechanism that would allow them to "give away" the software and then bill instead for actual time used. They don't need to rearchitect PhotoShop to have a "thin" front end in order to deliver it "as a service".

You could argue that PhotoShop is awfully big to pull down over broadband, but you'd have to be nuts in 2007 to bet against bandwidth.

Re: The future is now by Jon Rose

Stuart,
SaaS is somewhat of an ambiguous term, and I believe you are correct that this doesn’t necessarily dictate an ASP like architecture. However, I think the more interesting part is the technical challenge of putting products like PhotoShop on the web, and vise versa with utilizing web technologies on the desktop, as the lines begin to blur between the desktop and web. Have you had a chance to look at AIR or some other options that are driving this trend? What do you think about them?

Ryan Stewart has a good post on zdnet.com breaking down three of the options: blogs.zdnet.com/Stewart/?p=595.

Thanks for commenting,
-Jon

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