Thoughts on Adobe Max Announcements

Adobe is having it’s Adobe Max conference this week, and is packing it full of announcements. Some of the new products look very intriguing – I’ll be anxious to get my hands on them.

Here are some of the highlights:

  • They have acquired Typekit, one of the pioneers of web fonts as hosted service. On paper this makes a lot of sense, and it’s good to see a company like Adobe embracing the future in this way. However, I’m not too thrilled about this. Typekit was one of the real ground breaking services that brought web fonts into being a reality. I’ve not relied to much on their particular service, but I have always admired their impressive catalogue of fonts, as well as the ways they continued to push the envelope. I’ve also seen a lot of great startups get bought by larger corporations, only to die from neglect (Delicious?). I fear a similar fate for Typekit; at least, as we know it.
  • Creative Cloud – this is Adobe’s take on cloud computing, and their attempt at tying it to their creative software. The collaborative possibilities are something to ponder; I’m just curious if they will be more successful at fostering real creative communities than they have in the past. Frustratingly, they announced no pricing details (so what’s the point??). The problem in the past with other collaborative services is that it relied on a combination of applications and subscriptions that simply priced too many people out. If they’re charging, say, $50/ mo, with access to core apps (Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign), with say 20 GB of storage, I think they’d have a winner.
  • Touch apps – they are embracing the era of touch, and this was the most interesting part of today’s announcements for me. They showed off a number of apps, but the two that intrigued me was the collage app – for making mood boards; and the “proto” app which helped make rapid prototypes. I think “proto” still seemed a bit clunky, but was a great early glimmer at what could be an awesome app. The “photoshop touch” app, though, struck me as a tablet app that was simply trying to replicate the desktop app, and making the user do things in much less efficient ways.

I think tomorrow will be more announcements, probably regarding the desktop level of applications. If you wan to see today’s keynote, you can do so here.

  • Yeah, I have to confess that I had the same reaction when I heard they were getting bought.

    On the other hand, Adobe has demonstrated a shocking amount of real adaptation and ingenuity anda much more standards-based approach in the last six months than I can remember them ever doing before. Twice in the last few months I’ve thought, “Wow, that’s a great thing to push into the standards [their CSS shapes model and their HTML5 Shaders proposal],” which stands in stark contrast to my previous, “Adobe, not again” response to most of their web announcements. Somebody high up has clearly gotten the message that the future of the web is standards-oriented, not plugin-driven, and accordingly they’re focusing that way. Will Flash be an integral part of their web future? I’m sure. Is it the main thing they’re emphasizing and talking about right now? Thankfully, no.

    If they can keep that vision, I’m not worried about Typekit, except perhaps on an agility level. Here’s hoping Adobe recognizes the value of startups acting like startups and doesn’t attempt to (for lack of a better, real word) corporatize them.

  • Chip Cullen

    Chris – I agree that they are definitely embracing open standards as the way of the future. I think their CEO even mentioned once in the last year that Flash only accounts for around 3% of their revenue. It is definitely a refreshing change compared to previous years.

    Looking back at their acquisition of Typekit, I still am not totally optimistic. However, one reason to think that they’ll help Typekit succeed even more, as opposed to languish, is that Adobe is a company that understands fonts, and their importance. Fonts and font design are core to what Adobe is, and where it came from. Hopefully that means leadership at the company will allow Typekit to keep doin’ what it’s doin’.

    The cautionary tales of other startups dying tend to be in situations where the new owner had no business buying the startup in the first place. Exhibit A: Yahoo!’s many confusing acquisitions. I don’t see Adobe misunderstanding Typekit in that way.