Since its start in 1982, Adobe has always been about innovation on the desktop. In the early days, that meant developing cutting-edge technologies like PostScript. Later, it created industry-standard tools Photoshop and Acrobat with its PDF standard. Today, it's about offering premiere tools for desktop content creation across all platforms, whether print, online, or mobile. It's hard to imagine a content creator of any kind that hasn’t come in contact with Adobe tools.
The company’s objectives reach well beyond content creation, however. In the words of Adobe CEO Bruce Chizen, the company's goal is to enhance communication through its products. "We're continually bombarded with multiple messages from multiple media all competing for our attention," says Chizen. "So it's not enough to simply inform, we now must help our customers transform their communication into engaging, interactive experiences."
To that end, Adobe upgraded many of its premiere products this year, including a new version of Creative Suite 3 that incorporated Macromedia elements such as Flash and PDF, while preserving and enhancing old standbys Dreamweaver and Photoshop. Creative Suite 3 also includes tools for sharing content; there is a lot of integration across tools, making it easier for employees to reuse content with one another.
John Loiacono, SVP of the creative solutions business unit at Adobe, says this integration enables today’s new design professional to work seamlessly across disciplines. "I think that just a few years ago, you were either a design pro who worked primarily in print or you were a photographer, web designer, or coder. Today, we see those disciplines blurring. If you want to build compelling content, you can no longer work in one medium. With CS3, we have assumed people want to work across mediums," he says.
Based in San Francisco, Adobe began doing business at the dawn of the desktop computer revolution, just about the time IBM began selling the first PCs. Major acquisitions throughout the years include Aldus (makers of the seminal desktop publishing package PageMaker) in 1992, Frame Technology (makers of FrameMaker) in 1995, and Macromedia in 2005.
Loiacono says the effect of the Macromedia merger on Adobe—and digital content delivery in general—has been immense, with the sum being more than a mere combination of its parts. "What happened was that by combining, it really was a case of one and one equaling three—in the sense that where Adobe wasn't as strong, Macromedia was very strong," and vice versa, of course. For instance, they moved forward with Dreamweaver over Adobe's GoLive tool, but chose Illustrator over Macromedia Freehand. Undoubtedly, the biggest asset that Macromedia brought to Adobe was Flash, and Adobe has maximized its value by incorporating Flash into various offerings across delivery platforms.
"Right now anyone who creates, views, or interacts with information clearly feels the impact of Adobe software and our technologies," says Chizen. As he points out, changes such as increased broadband have increased pressure on individuals and companies to develop more interesting content, and more of it.
Other changes, such as an increasingly global marketplace, mean that companies need to be flexible enough to produce content quickly, in multiple languages, and across delivery platforms. To that end, Adobe announced in October 2007 that it had purchased online word processor Buzzword and released the all-new Adobe Media Player (AMP).
AMP, according Loiacono, enables rich media creators to deliver content across multiple platforms, thereby achieving Chizen's vision of relieving customer's delivery issues, while enabling them to offer engaging content. Loiacono points out that the Flash player is on 98% of PCs on the planet and on hundreds of millions of cell phones. "People are, of course, looking at how they can get their content deployed." He points out they no longer want to deploy to one media player for a web browser, a different player on cell phones, and another for a set top box. "When they create one piece of content they want to leverage it on multiple devices," he says.
As Loiacono says, "We believe we can become more of an end-to-end solution when it comes to collaboration and content. We don't claim we’re there yet, but it’s a path we are on." And if Adobe continues to combine technologies and make connections across platforms, technologies, and disciplines, the company may well reach that goal.
Fun Fact: Every quarter, Adobe holds an Innovation Showcase—think "Innovation Idol"—where product managers unveil new concepts in front of a panel of colleagues they hardly know, looking to gain traction for their ideas