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Adobe on Open Markets

Friday, May 14, 2010

As you probably noticed, yesterday Adobe ran some ads expressing its thoughts on the importance of open markets. I think Adobe's position is best summarized in an open letter from Adobe's founders, John Warnock and Chuck Geschke:
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When markets are open, anyone with a great idea has a chance to drive innovation and find new customers. Adobe's business philosophy is based on a premise that, in an open market, the best products will win in the end — and the best way to compete is to create the best technology and innovate faster than your competitors....

We believe that Apple, by taking the opposite approach, has taken a step that could undermine this next chapter of the web — the chapter in which mobile devices outnumber computers, any individual can be a publisher, and content is accessed anywhere and at any time.

One thing that seems to be causing some confusion is the word "open". Many feel that Adobe is arguing that Flash / Adobe is more open than Apple and its toolchain. In particular, Apple has been trying to frame the discussion around this argument. Flash is not necessarily more or less open than Apple's tool chain. Parts of the Flash ecosystem are proprietary, and parts are open (either specifications or open source). The same applies for Apple's toolchain.

Adobe isn't arguing that the Flash toolchain is more open than Apple's toolchain. We are arguing that the web is an open ecosystem where developers can choose how they develop and deploy their content. There is no single entity that acts as a gatekeeper and can restrict content on business, editorial or any other grounds. Apple is building a platform that is the exact opposite of that. That is their choice of course, and ultimately consumers and developers will decide whether to accept it. However, Adobe does not feel that is good for the web.

I think that John Nack has done the best job of explaining some of the dangers and concerns around this:

First, all these conversations tend to get framed in terms of Adobe Flash. That's a mistake. Apple's decision to deny customers the choice of whether to use Flash on iPads/iPhones is just one part of a bigger, more interesting question: What maximizes innovation & ultimate benefit to customers?...

You shouldn't care about this stuff because you love or hate Adobe. You should care because these issues affect your choices as a customer & a creative person.

So, while Flash is part of the discussion, and one of the things that set off this chain of events, the implications of Apple's actions go far beyond Flash. It is an issue around open markets, and the implications that such a closed ecosystem has on on choice and innovation.

Please keep comments constructive and on topic. Off topic comments may be moderated / deleted.

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