Everyone has been blogging and hyping the Adobe vs. Microsoft feud. The real power struggle is actually between Adobe and Google. I know this may sound a bit farfetched, but I think I have some valid points that prove my case.
Flex vs Google Web Toolkit (GWT)
Both are aimed at Java Programmers. Regardless of your thoughts on Java, you can’t deny the numbers. Thousands of enterprises have deployed this technology and therefore, there are A LOT of developers in the Java space. As Bruce Eckel pointed out, Java has not provided a nice way to deliver Rich Internet Applications on the web and that’s where Flex and GWT come in.
Both tools facilitate a simple framework to build dynamic web apps, but utilize different output formats. Flex spits out a swf file that runs in the Flash Player. GWT spits out AJAX code that runs in a browser. Both claim to eliminate the need to program for different browsers, a bane that turns off a lot of non-web developers. Whose version will Java developers buy? I don’t know, but whoever wins this battle will pull ahead in the enterprise space as all the Java-heads will preach that technology solution to those who sign their paychecks.
Apollo vs Firefox (via Netscape)
Both will perform a lot of the same functionality in the future. Google has the main Firefox guys on their payroll and obviously Adobe has the Apollo guys on theirs. What’s funny (in a weird way, not the “ha, ha” way) is how both companies can thank Netscape for their platforms. Netscape took Macromedia’s cash back in the day to include a new plug-in called the Flash Player, while Firefox got its first start toward the end of Netscape’s brief life.
Netscape publicly announced that it was going to take on Microsoft and win. This did do two things though: made Microsoft play catch-up (i.e. asked Macromedia if it could include the Flash Player too) and accelerated the browser as a platform (via the browser wars). Unfortunately, you shouldn’t challenge a giant until you know you can win, Netscape missed that somehow.
Now, both of these technologies are fixin’ to deliver on the timeless promise of a “Write Once, Deploy Anywhere” platform. Firefox wants you to program for its platform and Apollo wants you to build on theirs. Apollo will let you do Flash (Flex), HTML (AJAX) and PDF with any mix in between. Firefox will let you build apps on their platform frameworks such as XULRunner, XPCOM, etc. I’m fairly certain that a future version of GWT will likely support exporting code to the XUL platform. It would only make sense.
The holy grail is both technologies support the 3 big OSes: Windows, Mac and Linux. There’s one big difference to this support though. Adobe wants the OS to stick around, their tools depend on them. Google, however, does not and that leads me to my last point.
Desktop vs Nettop
One day, and sooner rather than later, Google wants the desktop to die. They want the world’s computers to run on their NetOS. I’m not here to speculate exactly what that entails, but let’s look at their profit model. The more time you spend online, the more money they make.
Adobe, however, have tools that run on OSes. They make money off these tools (Photoshop, Flash IDE, Flex Builder, Acrobat Professional, etc.) and they give away the runtimes that deploy content built with their tools (Acrobat Reader, Flash Player, Apollo, etc.) They don’t want the desktop to die anytime soon. In fact, if you look, Adobe seems to be trying to expand its tools to support all 3 major OSes.
As you can see, Adobe and Google are squarely pitted against one another. The only problem is that they both share a common enemy: Microsoft, who is bigger and tougher than both of them combined. There’s an old saying, “Keep your allies close and your enemies closer.” While Adobe and Google both want to win this war, it seems they want to kill their common enemy first. However, if Microsoft was to pick up on this secret rivalry and bring it to the forefront, Microsoft could force everyone into a 3-way battle. The key question will be how resolved Google and Adobe are at taking Microsoft down. If Microsoft tries to turn the two against each other, will they be strong enough to resist the bait? If not, can Adobe and Google handle fighting two battle fronts? I don’t think they can. If the war between these two goes live and loud, I think Microsoft will have a better chance on trouncing both. I guess only time will tell what happens, but it’ll be an interesting war to track nonetheless.