Adobe: Google’s Best Kept Secret Enemy

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.

Final Thoughts

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.

14 thoughts on “Adobe: Google’s Best Kept Secret Enemy

  1. In the natural world scavengers have the advantage and make the most intelligent animals, troodon, hyenas, humans.

    Microsoft is obviously the troodon, their day has come and gone. It’s time for the market to move on.

    Google is the hyenas. Never underestimate them.

    Adobe, the humans. Flex/Apollo is like the protohuman picking up a stick and clobbering the hyenas with it.

    …wow, I think I just went off the geek-end with that analogy. 🙂

  2. @polyGeek You may have gone off the geek-end, but we are geeks. If there’s a place to go off the end, this is it. LOL

    @Jim I agree. It’s an interesting time indeed.

  3. I think you need to cover more of Google’s objectives. Google’s primary business model is that of a TV channel. They offer viewing (search engine) and they offer commercials (banner ads). That’s Google. Adobe, is a company that makes tools (software for designers). Two very different businesses, and the whole thing about a netos, never gonna happen. Google might as well hang that idea up if they haven’t already.

  4. Has anyone seen the price tag on Flex? It’s exorbitant cost will keep it from being deployed by anyone except those with really deep pockets, not really a strategy for taking over a market.

    The winner will be the one who wins the hearts and minds of developers. My bet is on Google. Flash’s time has come and gone, having been relegated to boutique sites due to issues like search engine optimization, high cost of development tools, low numbers of developers etc. I can develop ASP.NET AJAX with free tools and deploy ASP.NET applications for free.

  5. @Michael, WTF? Flex exorbitant costs? Dude, it’s $499 for Flex Builder? You can do it for free if you want but Flex Builder really streamlines the process.

    I can pay for Flex Builder in one afternoon’s work. ONE! That’s chump change my friend.

  6. [Quote]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. [/Quote]

    I am not so sure you got this right…. With Flex and the Flash frame work,,, and now especially with Apollo – Adobe is positioning themselves to easily convert their desktop apps to nettop apps, and be the standard for apps being built for either space in the future, Regardless of OS.

  7. It’s annoying that they charge so much more for Flex Builder in Europe than they do in the US. The Adobe Store will let me buy the download version for the equivalent of 610 USD excl. of VAT. It’s 499 in the US. That’s a 22 % surcharge. I don’t think this is justified by currency conversion cost or risk. It’s just over the top and I’m not going to pay it.

    For me, this is a clear demonstration of the kind of leverage they have in the market. What else are they going to use it for?

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