Business Today

Adobe's Computing 4.0

The media software maker is eyeing rich web applications.

Print Edition: April 6, 2008

Adobe’s Narayen: He wants to power all publishing, both online and offline
Shantanu Narayen
Adobe Systems can now officially consider itself a member of software’s old guard, after recently turning a quarter-century old, yet in terms of revenues, the company is perched in the middle of the table, closing 2007 with revenues of $3.15 billion (Rs 12,600 crore). Osmania University alumnus Shantanu Narayen, President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Adobe Systems, however, believes that the company has punched far above what the numbers might suggest.

“If you look at publishing today, desktop publishing or even on the internet, Adobe solutions power most of it. We have been at the forefront of a pretty dramatic publishing change in the world,” claims Narayen, who was Adobe’s President & COO until 2005.

Since the internet and mobile devices will play a critical role in Adobe’s next phase of development, the San Jose-based company recently unveiled AIR, a new platform that allows developers to build new types of web services. “Our philosophy as a company has always been to revolutionise the way people engage with ideas and information, and we have done that by constantly inventing new solutions. Look at digital photography, prior to Photoshop people needed to use highly expensive proprietary systems,” Narayen points out. “AIR basically enables web applications to run on desktop applications, if you see what we did with Flash (a graphics product that came with the Macromedia purchase) it gave users the same experience across browsers.

What we are doing with AIR is offering the same user experience for applications across operating systems,” explains Kevin Lynch, Chief Technology Officer, Adobe Systems. As Lynch, who was appointed CTO early this year, goes on to explain, the company is betting that the future of computing will be a blend of ‘cloud’ computing (applications hosted online) and local computing (offline applications).

“We believe we are in the fourth phase of computing, where you will see ‘rich’ internet applications that will run on your computer but constantly access information from the network. That’s because a lot of the processing power that resides on your computer goes unused today, and AIR will enable developers to take advantage of the huge amounts of local computing power.”

With the world switching over to a multitude of connected devices, Narayen and Lynch are engineering AIR to give the same sort of user experience across different devices. “In countries like India, the mobile device is what people are using, in places like the US there are different devices as well, such as game consoles, that people use to access the internet, and you have to give people the same experience.

Anywhere there is a screen and processing power people will want to access the internet. Even today, Flash runs on a multitude of devices... the console of a new Jaguar uses Flash,” Narayen points out.

Adobe has been one of the oldest technology firms to have set up shop in India, and Narayen says that India will play a key role in the development of future Adobe products as well. “We are a global company and we will take advantage of the global talent pool, but India has never been about the number of people we have here but if we can attract the absolute best talent to develop innovative new technologies. And I believe in that respect we have been very successful in India.”

Kushan Mitra

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