“… the fundamental things apply….”

Some recent commentary on Twitter sounded worrisome… “If I read one more piece of FUD my brain will explode!” and such. Online debate has indeed been pretty tempestuous the past few months. But even accounting for surprising disruptions, the basic realities will still play out in predictable patterns, as time goes by.

Adobe’s business drivers and corporate culture revolve around helping creative communicators reach their audiences, no matter where they may be. Adobe has a history of investing in bedrock “platform” technology to create new markets, and also has a history of cooperation and inclusiveness with other businesses in the field. In the words of John Nack, “Adobe makes nearly all its money selling authoring tools that target great runtimes.” We’re making one ourselves, but Dreamweaver traditionally outsold Flash. The goal is to enable publishing.

There’s really no “HTML vs Flash” war. There are sure people inciting to create such a war, and individual developers may have strong practical reasons to choose one technology over another, but at corporate levels that drive strategy, all delivery channels are important Adobe territory, whether SWF or HTML or video or documents or paper or ebook or e-mag or film or packaging or whatever. Adobe profits by making it easier for creatives to reach their audiences.

We’re on the verge of a disruptive change that, I think, will dwarf that of the World Wide Web fifteen years ago. It was great back then when any wealthy person with a workstation in a wired environment could easily reach any creative’s webpage. With these cheaper devices we’ll be reaching far more people, and with pocket devices we’ll be reaching them throughout the day instead of just when “logged-on”. The WWW was merely a pale precursor of the excitement we’re going to see, I think.

For online discussion, I’ve seen a big change in techblog commentary since then last US presidential election — the types of arguments make less sense than before, and there are ‘way too many personal comments made by pseudonymous accounts with the same list of flawed talking points. Original reporting has a harder time finding funding, and meantime tabloid sensationalism does pull in the clicks. It would be interesting to know how many stories on Techmeme are not deliberately placed there by marketing campaigns. If reading techblogs sometimes seem nuts, it’s often because it is nuts… the dynamics in online debate are very different than three years ago. Don’t let it get you down.

The reality is that many, many manufacturers are bringing many, many new types of communication devices to market. They’re (almost) unanimously insisting on Flash support in order to entice the creative innovators who have been delivering with it over the past decade, as well as to satisfy the audiences that love this content. The birth of the PC proved what digital communications could do, but we’re about to hurtle past that, as we start to develop for a continuously connected worldful of people.

Technology is important, but so is developing sustainable business models. The WWW had a contingent of people insisting “content must be free”, who left creative incentive to the side, as T-shirt sales and such. But since then we’ve seen that the public will indeed compensate creators for music and application delivery to their device. I think we need to develop a variety of possible contracts between creators and their audiences, so that each business service can find terms acceptable to both parties. The technology understructure has almost reached delivery, but now comes the more complicated work of making it easy to develop successful businesses atop that technology.

I’m rambling among topics here, but I hope you see what I’m trying to get across… the dramas we’re told to believe in are not the dramas that really matter. We’re near the end of the beginning, and will now start to really work with “digital design for the hand”.

To get an idea of Adobe’s role in this, here’s Charles Geschke, co-founder of Adobe:

“One of the things I talk a lot about is the necessity to juggle all of the constituencies that have an interest in the business: shareholders, customers, employees, vendors, and the communities in which we operate. Those constituencies are all mildly in conflict with one another in terms of what’s best for them. Your job as a leader in a company is to find an appropriate way to juggle those conflicting interests so everybody feels like they’re getting a fair deal, without letting any one dominate the others because they’ll drag your company down.”

Finding ways for differing groups to get along, work together, achieve new goals… that’s Adobe’s corporate DNA. That’s why I’m confident of Flash’s future, excited about it, despite whatever Internet Inexactitude may occur along the way.

Please don’t let your brain explode… it’s messy to clean up, and you’re needed to help design, develop this big revolution now…. 😉

(Title comes from the tune “As Time Goes By” in the 1942 film “Casablanca”: “You must remember this, a kiss is just a kiss, a sigh is just a sigh. The fundamental things apply, as time goes by.” Always seemed to emphasize the inevitabilities of things, even when facing apparent chaos. Bet Herman Hupfeld and Dooley Wilson couldn’t have predicted such a future…! 😉

6 Responses to “… the fundamental things apply….”

  1. If the point of this post is that I should want Flash on my mobile device, let’s just say: how about making a version of Flash first that works properly on my 8-core Mac, before we try to put it on a mobile processor.
    With ClickToFlash (thank God) the uptime of Safari is measured in weeks. Without, hours.
    Flash is cute, but if it can’t behave, it’s doghouse, not dinner table.
    [jd sez: Safari & Player teams have been working together recently, and one of the first fruits is the move to the Core Animation drawing model, which removes a lot of the previous overhead.]

  2. Ilan Volow says:

    Flash as a business model is currently based on:
    1. A proprietary file format
    2. People’s previous legacy stuff.
    3. That people so didn’t have their sh*t together that #2 is such a big deal.
    4. People not getting wise to the fact that if you guys abandon flash, they’re screwed because it’s not an open standard.
    If you guys want to do that, it’s your prerogative. But there is another company several hundred miles north of you that follows a very similar pattern with their software.

  3. Andy says:

    Similar to Chris’s comment – how about a version of flash that can play 480p video smoothly without tearing on a Core 2 Quad + Nvidia 8800GT in Linux?
    The same content (AVC video + AAC audio) is playable smoothly and without tearing on an Athlon XP 2800+ + 7800GS if it is fed to mplayer. (Read: No GPU acceleration involved other than scaling, since 8000-series hardware is required for VDPAU.)
    I’ve even successfully played back 480p AAC + AVC video on an Atom N280 + GMA950 combo without the tearing that Flash Player has on my beefy desktop.
    [jd sez: This is a different topic than my blogpost, but NVIDIA is working with Adobe on using hardware acceleration for Flash video, and the results are already pretty stunning: http://mashable.com/2010/03/24/nvidia-tegra-android-tablet-demo/ For the difference between linear video and interactive video, see Mike Melanson. ]

  4. Evan Owen says:

    I’ve seen the comment regarding hardware acceleration from Adobe before… and I don’t get it at all.
    Why does Flash need hardware acceleration for video playback that other software can play without ANY acceleration? It’s 480p for crying out loud!
    [jd sez: Much of the fuss about the GPU is because of the fuss about CPU percentages. And again, this is more about Flash in general, rather than the topic discussed above… Slashdot effect, I guess, but I’ll have to start moderating more strictly to keep things worth later readers’ time.]

  5. Eric Jones says:

    John Dowdell you don’t get it but guys like Mike Downey gets it. That is why he left Adobe for Silverlight. Silverlight is about to eat your lunch and pop the bag. You are like a frog in water and you don’t sense the heat is getting turned up on you.
    [jd sez: I haven’t been publishing a number of other post-Slashdot comments, but I liked this one because, despite being off-topic, it had that nice sequence of eating lunch, popping some bag, then boiling a frog. Novel.]

  6. maxx says:

    [ I’m publishing this one, even though it came in many months after the original blogpost was live, and even though it’s an Apple-y kneejerk flame rather than addressing what I actually wrote here, and even though it’s a spammy promotion of a commercial site… because the site it advertises offers blog-management and social-media services, and because I just read this. –jd ]
    If the point of this post is that I should want Flash on my mobile device, let’s just say: how about making a version of Flash first that works properly on my 8-core Mac, before we try to put it on a mobile processor..Manual Article Submission Service