February 01, 2010
Adobe isn’t in the Flash business
It isn’t in the Photoshop business, or the Acrobat business, or the [take-your-pick product name] business, either.
It’s in the helping people communicate business.
We’d all do well to remember that, because it means that the company’s fortunes are tied to building great tools for solving problems. If we do that well, we prosper; if we do it poorly, we fail. When we get too wrapped up in this technology or that, we lose touch with the problems that we (and more importantly our customers) are trying to solve.
John Gruber wrote the other day that “Hulu isn’t a Flash site, it’s a video site. Developers go where the users are.” Well sure, of course they do. Flash is a means to an end for Adobe, too, not the end unto itself.
The equation is simple. Adobe wants to make money selling tools, so it needs our customers’ clients to pay for work done with the tools. Clients won’t pay if their customers can’t see the work made with the tools. Therefore customers, clients, and by extension Adobe need a way to see the work, be that videos, interactive pieces, or anything else.
Flash has stepped in to fill some gaps heretofore left by other technologies. It is, however, just one possible means to an end–always has been. Adobe will of course continue to invest in making Flash better, and it’ll keep investing in other ways to help creative people reach customer eyeballs. It’s not a zero-sum game.
You’d think this stuff would be pretty obvious, but as I’ve already noted, the world likes either-or, winner-loser, good guy/bad guy, Jane-you’re-an-ignorant-slut narratives. They make for easy blogging, but mainly they’re a simpleminded distraction from solving real problems.