Posts in Category "Adobe"

Got acne? Blame Flash!

This device too late! That device too different! This one too big, that one too small, this OS too free, that OS too closed, ohmygosh run run run!

There’s a rare layer of hysteria in much of the techblogging today. The nuttiness has been around forever, but now seems to be reaching a fever pitch.

Some ask if we’re in a bubble. I don’t know. But for every person who sells a share of stock above $300, there’s a person who paid that steep a price for it. That’s a lot of people, with lots of self-interest floating around out there. And the financial message boards have never been among the most civil examples of online discussion….

It’s hot. But it won’t persist. We’re already seeing the patterns.

Connected interactive screens are coming in all sizes, with all types of operating systems and native-code environments, in all types of languages, with all types of business models connected to their use. No single brand dominates.

Everyday people in both Palo Alto and Peru, both San Francisco and Singapore, both Cupertino and Hyderabad — and everywhere else! — are all adopting these devices at torrid pace. No single social group dominates.

The technology to publish applications and content across all these devices will vary with device needs, audience needs and content needs. We usually need to blend technologies to reach wider audiences. No single technology dominates.

People delivering their ideas through such devices want a real connection with their audience, and not be intermediated by gatekeepers — few wish to be a mere sharecropper. Cross-device markets, cross-device analytics, cross-device frameworks, cross-device toolchains are the pickaxes and hardware of this gold rush.

In such an expansive world, those who see themselves as the only true path will likely fare not all that well. They’ll rail at competition, scream and shout. Listen to what they say, but confirm the truth for yourself.

Cooperation and mutual benefit are, realistically, a better long-term approach. Just gotta deal with some of the screaming in the meantime…. ;-)

Recent news, steady progress

Funny news day — lots of little things popping, some drawing much more attention than others, hard to get perspective. There’s a common theme among them, however. Even though there’s lots of growth in new types of environments, there’s a lot of work in bridging them, too.

One example is how browsers are starting to expose Flash Player local storage… from the FAQ:

“Integration with browser privacy controls for managing local storage — Users now have a simpler way to clear local storage from the browser settings interface, similar to how users clear their browser cookies today. Flash Player 10.3 integrates control of local storage with the browser’s privacy settings in Mozilla Firefox 4, Microsoft Internet Explorer 8 and higher, and future releases of Apple Safari and Google Chrome.”

Letting webpages store more-than-cookie-sized data is a good idea, as recent HTML5 local-storage work shows. But as cross-site tracking and personality databases become more worrisome, it makes sense to expose integrated local-storage to public control however people wish to control it. The good news is that different parties can (and do) work together to bring this about. Progress.

Another example is the Wallaby project… not as dramatic as Techmeme may paint it, but it’s still useful to be able to bring basic SWF assets into a different delivery environment. Fragmentation is natural during fast evolution, but connecting such silos is natural too. Progress.

A subtler example is from the Dreamweaver team this week, about the differences in touch events across different WebKit-based browsers. Touchscreens and scrolling forms, or preventing doubled events when there’s also a trackball controller… natural for fragmentation to occur, and natural to bridge that fragmentation too.

More obvious is the work that Adobe’s Digital Publishing group has been doing… working with major publishers to bridge across all the various islands of new devices rapidly appearing. This will soon help smaller publishers too.

Screaming headlines may clash and obscure significa, but the real pattern underlaying the news is easier to see: we’re rapidly gaining a wide variety of connected digital screens, and the big work is in helping anyone to write to them. There’s daily, incremental progress towards that goal… connecting those silos, bridging those islands.

Blends of native and global

It’s not as simple today as it was when applications were developed for Windows, sometimes considering a Mac port, and wondering how Linux could recoup development costs. Now we have not only different form-factors (big multiscreen desktops, little pocket phones, in-between tablets and looming TVs) but we’re split on mobile between Apple OS, Google OS, Microsoft OS and other options. Fragmentation is big.

Some say the choices are “web apps vs native apps”. Some of the more enlightened also mention bridging technologies (AIR or other cross-device frameworks/compilers/runtimes). I don’t think it’s so cut-and-dried as “completely global” versus “completely native”.

For direct OS coding, unless you’re planning to deliver to only one brand of device, you’re going to divide up the work with both portable and native aspects… you’re going to make it easy to port to other environments later. You’ve got your core data structure, media assets and business logic, and then will handle specific devices in a separate layer.

Same when using the browser as your runtime, although inverted… here the instructions are mostly portable, but you’ll still have to build switches for slightly different runtime behaviors, or very different permitted services. The great variance in mobile HTML/JS/CSS performance pushes its promise of full-functioned cross-device compatibility off into the hazy future… you’ll have to handle the edge-cases.

That’s what I think it’s not “all native” or “all universal”. There’s always a blend between portable aspects and idiosyncratic aspects. People who argue polarities may not provide the best investment in listening time.

(Adobe’s role? To make it easier for creators to reach their audiences, however they choose to do so. Adobe tooling is used in even Microsoft-only development or Apple-only native-code development… used in most every webpage in the world… and Adobe also creates great runtimes for those seeking a more portable codebase with lower testing and support costs. Adobe supports varying blends of native and global — your choice.)

Adobe Culture, Geschke, 1998

In 1998, Quark sought to acquire Adobe, and the company underwent a massive reorganization. Adobe co-founder Charles Geschke sent out the following memo about what type of business culture he wanted to create. He also included “Adobe’s Core Values and Beliefs” from 1988 beneath it. I still hear these driving principles regularly discussed inside Adobe today.

This essay is already in the public record, a PDF hosted at Knowledge@Wharton, which I reformatted to HTML.

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Adobe Culture

The principles that define us as an organization

Charles M. Geschke
September, 1998

The word culture is defined as the “refinement of thought, emotion, manners, taste, etc.” I’ve written this short essay to describe Adobe’s culture and to capture some of the characteristics that should guide us as we represent this corporation. The last section of the piece is a document first published nearly ten years ago describing the core values of Adobe. I think it applies as well today as it did a decade ago.

Many fine books have been written about how organizations can grow and operate effectively. This essay makes no pretense of replacing those excellent materials, nor does it attempt to define all the principles and attributes that should underlie Adobe’s business culture. The topics discussed herein are primarily those that are most important for us to focus on today.

A business built with intellectual capital

The raw materials from which our business is formed are the inventive ideas and creative talent of our employees. Adobe’s strong financial balance sheet is not based on assets such as factories, warehouses, storefronts, or mining and mineral rights. The capital assets of our corporation are our people who are skilled in sales, marketing, engineering, and administration. Therefore, the way we behave and operate our culture directly affects the financial success of our business.

The following paragraphs discuss specific activities as well as some of business characteristics that critically affect our ability to perform well as an organization.

Meetings

The person who calls a meeting should clearly understand the necessity for convening it and be able to clearly articulate the purpose of the meeting to all those invited. Meetings generally fall into two classes: communication meetings and decision-making meetings. Meetings can easily be nonproductive when it is not clear to the convener and attendees exactly in which kind of meeting they are participating. Whenever possible, presentation materials should be distributed to attendees 24 hours before the meeting is held.

Decision-making meetings: These meetings should typically have no more than ten participants (preferably fewer). Someone should be appointed to take summary notes of the meeting and clearly record the decisions made and the follow-up actions that result from the meeting. These notes should be distributed to all attendees as soon after the meeting as possible. The convener (or a designee) is responsible for (1) communicating all decisions to those who need to know them (and did not attend), and (2) ensuring that follow-up actions are assigned to individuals and checking that those actions are completed.

Communication meetings: These meetings should be convened only when written communication cannot effectively convey the required information or when the opportunity to provide a forum for interactive communication and discussion of ideas is the primary purpose of the meeting.

As a global company, we constantly need to make and communicate decisions that involve participants from several locations around the world. Clearly, travel expenses for face-to-face meetings contribute significantly to our expense budget. But there are other hidden costs, including absence of the traveling participants from their local offices as well the negative impact on the quality of home and family life that result from extensive travel. Conveners should consider these factors carefully before deciding that face-to-face interaction is critical. We will continue to invest in infrastructure (broad-band networks, teleconferencing, etc.) to provide alternatives to face-to-face meetings.

Decisions

If we clearly define who has the authority for making a decision after gathering input, then that decision should not be reopened for consideration except in extraordinary circumstances. As an organization, we have a habit of frequently reconsidering decisions. This creates confusion and delays effective implementation of decisions that many members of the organization believe have already been made. The Pathfinder project provided a framework (the RAID matrix) for eliminating this indecisiveness. If this framework does not work, then let’s work to find an alternative. However, the habit of continuously re-evaluating decisions, makes us an inefficient organization.

Expenses

Going forward, we must adjust our spending levels to match our expectations for revenue growth. While the current economic crisis in Asia accentuates the issue, it is not the sole cause of our drop in profitability. Effective control of spending requires constant vigilance. Failure to control expenses has a direct impact on our earnings, growth, stock price, and profit sharing. Each employee has a role to pay in controlling our costs. We must apply the same careful thought to each dollar we spend from Adobe’s budget as we do to our personal finances.

Teamwork

A successful business organization must operate as a team, not as a loosely knit federation of individuals. Our corporate goal is to attract and hire the highest-quality employees. While each employee’s individual expertise and experience are critical criteria in the hiring decision, the overall effectiveness of Adobe can be maximized only when these individuals come together as a cohesive unit. This can occur only when each individual contributes to the overall objectives of the company by (1) understanding his/her role, (2) applying maximum effort to excel in performing his/her job functions, and (3) believing that each of his/her colleagues is performing at the same effort. Managers must (1) set clear direction and define each individual’s role, (2) monitor team performance, and (3) provide constructive feedback when individuals do not perform up to expected levels.

Leadership

A successful manager must first be a leader. Leadership requires communicating a compelling vision, engaging the group in pursing that vision, and providing the resources and support necessary for success. Our goal should be to hire employees who are energetic, independent, and highly motivated. A manager should focus primarily on leading and not directing. A manager should work with his/her employees to set goals and objectives, measure progress, and evaluate performance. A manager is responsible for ensuring that his/her group operates in synch with the rest of the organization. The manager is therefore responsible for communicating the group’s direction and progress both horizontally and vertically within the organization. I ran across a quote from Ralph Nader: “The function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers.” This quote parallels an Adobe principle often stated but not always followed that each manager hire his/her replacement. The implication is that to succeed in management, you should mentor your employees so that they can do your job as well as you can. Effectively replacing yourself is the most direct career path to a more senior management position in the company.

Global Markets

Adobe is a global company with an expectation that the majority of its revenue comes from outside the United States. While we operate locally, we must think globally. Business decisions that make sense in one geography may be completely inappropriate in another region of the world. Each functional unit in the company must understand its relationship with these global markets and take care to keep a worldwide perspective while pursuing its specific responsibilities. The global nature of our business places an even higher premium on effective horizontal communication throughout the organization.

Trust

Without trust, teamwork and leadership are worthless. To trust someone, you must know them. I have observed an insidious habit recently where groups or individuals are criticized by others who have not taken the care to investigate the underlying facts. This behavior erodes trust, which in turn disables teamwork. Unless we improve company-wide communication to provide the necessary information upon which accurate assessments can be made, we will not be able to build the level of trust required to effectively operate our business.

Honesty

The most important virtue of Adobe’s corporate culture is honesty. The only sure-fire way to be asked to leave this organization is to knowingly fail to tell the truth.

On more than one occasion, an Adobe employee has remarked to me that our company stands out from the ordinary because its culture transcends the purely economic engines that characterize many other businesses. But, let us be perfectly clear — Adobe is a business. Maintaining a warm, supportive, caring culture is not the primary mission of this organization. To maintain the important components of our culture, we must commit to excellent, predictable financial performance. Over the past sixteen years, we have demonstrated a unique ability to achieve both goals. Although our financial performance has weakened in recent quarters, with your help and commitment, we can and will correct our course while maintaining the cultural heritage that defines Adobe.

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Adobe Core Values and Beliefs

Adobe was founded on a set of core beliefs and values. As we grow, maintaining these values is critical to our continued success. When we were a small company, it was possible to communicate these values in person. The time has come to write them down for all of us to share.

  • Thrive on innovation — invent new technologies, define new markets, and build products that dominate.

  • Treat each individual with whom you interact as you would like to be treated. This fundamental principle applies to customers, vendors, and fellow employees.

  • For our customers: Deliver the best and most innovative products. License technology fairly and impartially. Maintain total confidentiality about each customer’s business. Provide the highest possible level of service.

  • For our employees: Hire the best. Treat them well. Provide a first class environment in which to work. Offer the opportunity to participate in the ownership and economic success of the company.

  • For our shareholders: Provide a fair return through predictable growth and careful husbanding of our resources.

  • For our community: Support charitable causes and public-benefit programs. Provide a good example of progressive employment and business practices.

The following pages illustrate these core beliefs as they apply to Adobe’s customers, vendors, managers, and employees. I encourage you to discuss them with one another and give me your thoughts on how to better communicate these ideals in the future.

Customers

  • Treat the customer as you would like to be treated.

  • Make the customer an ally, not an adversary.

  • Evaluate issues from the customer’s point of view.

  • Remember: your performance may have a major impact on the survival of the customer’s business.

  • Make the customer feel that we need his or her business.

  • Thank the customer frequently for his or her business.

  • “Reserve the right to be reasonable.”

Vendors

  • Treat the vendor as you would like to be treated.

  • Make the vendor an ally, not an adversary.
  • Evaluate issues from the vendor’s point of view.
  • Do not exploit Adobe’s power to force the vendor into an untenable position.
  • Thank the vendor frequently for his or her support.

Managers

  • Treat your reports, as you would like to be treated.

  • Criticize in private; praise in public.
  • Hire people smarter than you.
  • Facilitate effective, efficient communication.
  • Decision-making meetings should be small.
  • Devote time to mentoring your employees.
  • Answer your phone in person whenever possible.
  • Keep your door and your mind open.
  • It is better to “coordinate” than to “direct.”
  • “A manager is responsible for working herself out of her job.”

Employees

  • Treat your fellow employees as you would like to be treated.

  • Remember that the major barrier to your career growth is you, not your colleagues.
  • Be a self-starter.
  • Whenever possible, work smart, not long.
  • Answer your phone in person whenever possible.
  • “At Adobe, everyone sweeps the floor.”
  • Keep your door open.
  • “People need to be reminded more frequently than informed.”

Balancing diverse needs

Some heat around video features today… browser vendors’ VIDEO plans don’t include a doorlock, and rebuttal… not all content providers can afford to provide for less-capable audiences, and rebuttals.

Made me think of a quote from Adobe co-founder Charles Geschke a few years ago, at a Kendall Whitehouse interview for Knowledge@Wharton:

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.

Sustainable technological solutions work for more people… balancing the needs of consumers, AND creators, AND investors, AND all the other diverse groups which are affected. If any constituency feels slighted or oppressed, then things won’t move forward as easily.

Asking video creators to create multiple interfaces for intentionally-hobbled devices, or telling creators that they can’t even install a lock on their front door… that’s as unfriendly as saying “use another browser” or “install this new plugin to watch” would be to consumers. Finding solutions which work for diverse groups is harder, but, in the long run, more fun.

… because Adobe’s about publishing

Big drama on Techmeme today… they picked up on that Dreamweaver integration with the Kaltura approach to video, which hit the news last week.

Shouldn’t be a surprise… just like Illustrator’s support for drawing in “HTML5″, Dreamweaver’s support for code-hinting the new tags, and Adobe’s announced intention for ongoing improvements in HTML tooling.

Even further back, look at how Adobe’s founders approached things (excerpts on standards, culture, reinventionfollowup). There’s a remarkable consistency here.

Adobe’s about helping communicators reach their audiences — about easing practical publishing — regardless of the particular means to do so. Print, film, video, websites, mobile apps… all share that same drive. Goes back to how Dreamweaver 1.0 focused on bringing animation & interactivity to diverse browser silos, despite “competing” with Shockwave and the nascent Flash.

Marketing campaigns may have reason to portray a “Flash vs HTML” battle, but that isn’t the way things really work. The most exciting thing right now is that entire new classes of digital connectivity are arriving in hands around the planet. There are big problems to solve here… as we’ll see at MAX next week…. ;-)

Bedrock Adobe

Want to understand Adobe? Look to its past. Adobe bridges different silos… whether that’s connecting any computer program to any printer, or making it nearly as easy to design for one screen as dozens. Adobe has a history of advancing new platforms atop which it hopes to out-innovate in services. Adobe can be clumsy and slow — very consensus-driven internally — but also tends to do the right thing.

I’ve been re-reading this Sept08 Knowledge-on-Wharton interview with Adobe founder Charles Geschke, conducted and transcribed by Kendall Whitehouse… worth reading in full, or you can skim through my prior excerpts on how the business has evolved. A lot of Adobe’s success has been when it has developed new technology platforms to help reconcile the needs of different groups of people.

If you have the time, I’d really recommend reading through that interview on how Adobe was formed… both warts and beautymarks, shows you a lot of how Adobe is put together.

Just one quote to give a flavor:

Knowledge@Wharton: What do you think is the biggest challenge Adobe is facing going forward?

Geschke: Inventing the future. We’ll never succeed unless we continue to open up new vistas.

Uniting silos, making it easier for creative people to reach their audiences… that’s pretty much the long & short of how the business works.

Snippets from Adobe Quarterly Call

Adobe reported its quarterly results yesterday, and as usual offered an open question-and-answer session with financial analysts.

I’d like to thank SeekingAlpha.com once again for transcribing both the presentation and the discussion section. They allow bloggers to copy up to 400 words, and I pulled some snippets out of the Q&A. These are heavily edited to turn transcribed speech into written speech… if in doubt, please go back to the transcript or the audio.

“2010 is clearly off to a great start. Adobe’s long term opportunity has been sometimes overlooked in this recent Flash controversy… When you talk about the explosion of digital content, the movement towards devices, the businesses which are moving online, it’s just a really massive opportunity, and an opportunity where Adobe is uniquely positioned.”

“The number of Flash users is now up to 3.5 million designers and developers, a 59% increase. In terms of the revenue of products that contain Flash, there has been a 22% increase in revenue.”

How does Adobe’s investment in Flash Platform generate a return-on-investment? Authoring tools are the obvious way, and multi-screen authoring is rapidly increasing in demand. Servers are another, whether through consumer video or enterprise application servers. Player downloads offer third-party software, and this helps pay for Player development. Analytics are another emerging area, so that creators can see how well their content suits their audiences’ needs.

“We really have not seen any impact of the HTML and Flash debate on our authoring business. Instead we’re seeing more and more fragmented workflows as people have to author to different standards. The need to deal with all these disparate workflows is actually causing more attention to be paid to the Creative Suite 5 features. We’ve said this multiple times, that ‘Flash *and* HTML’ is really going to be the solution for the web. Both of them have benefits. And Adobe has had a long history of supporting both formats.”

“I’d say one of the reasons Creative Suite 5 has been so strong across the board is authoring for multiple screens. It’s a painpoint now for all customers, and between now and holiday season you’ll see probably another ten tablet style devices that come out with different resolutions. This will increase the demand further. The need for customers to be able to get their content out to multiple devices… we’ve certainly seen an uptick in those requests.”

“With respect to your question on the content servers, the amount of video served or streamed using the Flash format has actually exceeded our expectations from the beginning of the year. The big reason is that more and more video is been streamed over the internet. The fact that some devices don’t support Flash just means that there may be additional workflows. But if you think about sporting events or when you think about television, all of that’s also being streamed on the Internet and practically all of that is in Flash.”

Highlights of Adobe Q1FY10 analyst call

Along with posting financial results, Adobe hosts an analyst question-and-answer session each quarter. Thanks to Seeking Alpha for the transcript… within its constraint of quoting 400 words, here are two sections which you may find particularly interesting.

First, Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen gave an overview of the entire business, including the Platform initiatives. I’m quoting his Platform description in full, because it’s carefully crafted to be concise and yet show the company’s main priorities… a good way to understand Player, OSP, and AIR.

“With general availability expected beginning in Q2, Adobe Flash Player 10.1 is the first runtime release of the Open Screen Project enabling uncompromised web browsing of expressive content, high definition video and rich applications across multiple screens including desktops, smart phones, net books, internet connected DVD, new tablet devices and other consumer electronics.

“The Open Screen project in an industry wide initiative led by Adobe that now includes 70 ecosystem partners. We’ve been working closely with our OSB partners to enable the deployment of Flash Players on Google Android, the Blackberry OS, the Simbian OS, the Palm Web OS and Windows Phone Series 7 devices.

“You can expect to see some of these devices starting to ship with Flash Player in the first half of this year and quickly ramping through this year and next.

“We also unveiled Adobe AIR 2.0 for mobile devices, consistent run time for delivery of standalone mobile device applications. AIR leverages mobile specific features from Flash Player 10.1, is optimized for high performance on mobile screens, and designed to take advantage of native device capabilities for a richer and more immersive music experience. We expect to roll out AIR support for mobile platforms later this year.”

This second section was in response to a question about HTML. I’ve done more editing here to fit within the word-limit, but it shows clearly that HTML support will continue to advance at Adobe.

We already support HTML in all its different flavors that exist today. Whether you’re using Dreamweaver or any of our other tools, if you want to output we will definitely support it.

We will support any format that takes stock in the marketplace, and we’ve done that right through the existence of the company. So standards that exist, whether PDF, Flash, HTML, new imaging and video standards like H264, dynamic image resolutions… we’re going to support all of that in our Creative Tools.

And as there are new devices emerging, such as the smartphone form-factor the tablet category, our customers would like to leverage their assets so they don’t have multiple stovepipe workflows.

While none of these customers want to create multiple websites, some of them will have to do it because of the different formats that are supported by each of these different vendors. We will support HTML out of the gate.

The reality is, it’s a fragmented standard, but we will continue to support it within our authoring applications. We think the benefits for our customers, when they use our tools with our runtime and now with the Omniture Suite, is a more comprehensive solution.

There are other interesting parts in the transcript, including how Creative, Video and Enterprise segments see the new opportunities… the need of publishers to use one workflow to target multiple delivery channels… the use of Omniture analytics to “close the loop” of knowing how the application is used… answering an Apple question by emphasizing “We are committed to bringing Flash to any platform on which there is a screen”… lots more on the rest of the business too.

But the two quotes above show two key items: how the Flash Platform is perceived by the company leaders, and the continued commitment to all formats and deliverables that creative professionals find important.

Adobe in Enterprise

The Internet — the ability of networks to network together — supports various applications, such as The World Wide Web of interlinked hypertext documents. But The Web is merely one application built atop The Internet, and The Internet supports many uses beyond the common WWW system.

Bob Gourley has a good overview of this beyond-the-web aspect of Adobe technologies in “What CTOs should know about Adobe”. It shows PDF as a document platform, beyond its Web use for brochures, and how this interacts with communication technologies, management technologies and the rest.

Sometimes you want everyone else in the world in your network, and web browsers are (ideally) safe vehicles in which to do such universal exploring. But sometimes you want to grant greater permissions to a trusted local network, and this enables new types of client applications, beyond a general browser.

My favorite line: “Adobe has adopted a philosophy of being able to work with every other capability in the IT stack. So if you are using Sharepoint or Oracle Fusion Middleware or Java or Endeca or whatever else, Adobe is likely going to work just fine.” It’s that common theme of removing fragmentation, uniting silos.

The big takeaway: “It is certainly OK to think of PDF when you think of Adobe. It is a great, open format. But think also of the other great enterprise-class capabilities they are providing.” Same holds true if you swap “SWF” for “PDF”, and “web” for “enterprise”.

[via Andrea Mangini, Jingleyfish]