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Help for Adobe Problems: The Descent into Irrelevance

Last Updated: Friday, 09-Jan-2015 12:32:47 PST

The Story of PDF

One of the things about computers, that makes it difficult, to offer technical support, for users, is that software changes, very rapidly. This brings us to the issue with Adobe. Adobe was a great company, for a number of years. They virtually invented the modern print industry, with Postscript and PDF, which are now governed by international standards organizations, which has made it a very useful format, without having to rely on Adobe, for anything.

The PDF file format is essentially a read only format, that saves the information, needed to a print a file, exactly the way it was created. The reason why PDFs are essentially read only is that is the only way to guarantee, that the document looks exactly the same, as the creator designed it. Adobe also gave away a program, called Adobe (Acrobat) Reader, for people to view PDFs, on their computer, without having to buy anything. Over the years, many other programs were created that were able to both create and view PDFs. Despite giving away so much for free, Adobe made a tremendous amount of money, as most designers used Adobe products, like Photoshop and Illustrator, to design all sorts of publications, for print.

The Story of Flash

While Adobe was basically producing the software, that made the desktop publishing revolution happen, for professional designers, there was another company, called Macromedia, who are famous for Dreamweaver and Flash. Flash software refers to 3 things: Flash the professional design program, the free Flash player need to view Flash websites, and .swf the Flash file format.

Just like Adobe did with the PDF file format, Macromedia offered the Flash viewer program for free, but unlike with PDFs, did not allow anyone else to make a Flash player. Other companies were encouraged, to make other programs, that created Flash websites, but never viewers, for the Flash websites. They did this, so that Microsoft didn't sabotage Flash, like they did HTML, Javascript, and Java, by making their own versions, that were incompatible, with the original version, by introducing competing viewers. Flash originally started as a technology, for making interactive CD-ROMS, and then shifted, to websites, as the Internet replaced CD-ROMs. Flash was designed, for what is called vector animations. Flash was originally designed, to help professional designers make animations, that would load fast, over the Internet, because they were vector based graphics.

Dreamweaver was the most popular software, for creating websites, by professional designers and still is. Dreamweaver was and still is one of the only graphical web page editors, for professional designers, for the Mac, produced by a major company.

The Merger

Both Adobe and Macromedia were the dominate players, in there particular design specialties, but continued to try to expand, into the other competitor's field. In an effort to make an alternative format for Flash, Adobe and Microsoft compromised on a file format called SVG. SVG was vector based, like Flash, but was an international standard, like PDF is now. Anyone could make both viewers for SVG graphics or create SVGs. Adobe released, what was called Adobe SVG Viewer, to allow people, to view SVGs on websites, created by professional designers. Adobe had a hard time getting web designers, to adopt SVG, for website graphics.

Along the way, both Adobe Reader and Macromedia Flash Player kept on adding features, beyond what they were originally designed for. One of the things added was the ability, to create interactivity, within both PDFs and in Flash graphics, by each of the companies. This was the start of both the instability, security problems, and performance problems, with Flash Player and Adobe Reader. Flash Player added a major new and unrelated feature, to act as a video player, which allowed video, to work cross-platform. The other video formats would not work cross platform, as Windows Media didn't work on the Mac and Quicktime Player didn't work on Windows (especially for streaming video, or for playing video, with software enforced copy restrictions called DRM).

As Adobe was afraid of Microsoft entering the graphic design software world, and be a powerful competitor and because they were unable to get people to use SVGs instead of Flash, Adobe decided to buy Macromedia, mainly, to get Flash. About this time, the PDF format became a defacto standard, in government and businesses, for producing publications, that could be read, without having to have the correct version of Microsoft Office. Apple also used the PDF file format, for the visual display, in programs optimized for Mac OS X. At this time, the management at Adobe decided not to make any more major investments, in their products, and coast in, on, because that they had basically no viable competition.

The Stagnation

When Apple got a new OS, from when they acquired Steve Jobs, to turn the company, from certain bankruptcy, to the second largest company, in the world, measured by stock value, Adobe didn't want to change their programs, to work with the new system and neither did Microsoft, so Apple had to design a way, to use the same programs, on the new system, without writing almost anything new. This took Apple 5 years. Imagine if Steve Jobs launched the iPod 5 years earlier. As the years went by, Adobe decided to design all their software for Windows and then try to make it work the same, on the Mac, without making major changes.

Even though most professional Adobe products were used, by professional designers, almost exclusively on Mac OS X, Adobe also designed Flash Player, for Windows and then made the player, for the Mac, without doing any major changes. This meant that Adobe products worked even worse, on Macs, than they did on PCs. About this time, everyone in the industry predicted that in the next few years, websites would be mostly viewed on devices like cell phones. A few years later, Apple released the iPhone and Adobe didn't even have a version of Flash Player, that was capable of running on any cell phone, that could by used to see Flash based websites, for 3 more years.

Adobe needed, to rewrite the Flash Player, to make it work, on cell phones, while still giving good battery life, but they didn't want, to invest in it. And since the iPhone uses very similar technology, as modern Macs do, but had much less computing power, it obviously wouldn't work well on Apple mobile devices or any other non-Windows devices. As important, as the Flash Player is, to so many website owners and web users, Adobe only has 4 engineers hired, to develop Flash Player, and only one person, half-time, for both the Mac and Linux versions.

The Post-Flash World

Right now, we are in the process of putting video and audio playing, into the web browser and updating the web browser, to be able to do interactivity, as easily as is done with Flash. And since multiple major companies, like Apple, Google, and Microsoft are competing for users, the performance of these new technologies have increased tremendously, in just a few years.

Most of Flash is now used for video (most of which will still work, like Youtube, if you disable Flash and use a new browser) and for annoying ads. The next few years, it will be a painful transition, for mostly small businesses, but then we will only use Flash, as often as we use Java, on websites. It is now cheaper and easier, to create interactivity and video, without using Flash. I still don't know how to do any programming and my website does not need Flash, for anything.

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