Adobe, You Brought An Advertisement To A Gun Fight

Adobe, no one seems to want to say this to you, but I will. Stop it, you’re embarrassing yourself.

You’ve just spent God-knows how much money on an ad buy that blankets much of the technology press (including this site). It’s a strange passive-aggressive message that just makes Jobs’ aggressive-aggressive post from a few weeks ago seem even more forceful. And it’s transparent. But worst of all, it won’t work. You must know this.

On the face of it, the ad is an attempt to convince people that you’re the good guys in this fight. “We Love Apple” — the problem is, you don’t love Apple. Why on Earth would you? They’re completely screwing you right now. Everyone knows that. You’d have to be crazy to love Apple right now.

So what you’re really trying to say with this ad is “We love choice, and if you love choice too, put pressure on Apple.” The problem with that is, it won’t work. As they’ve made it abundantly clear over the years, Apple doesn’t listen to any outside input. Hell, they don’t even have focus groups. They do things their way. We’ve seen this recently with the App Store. Thousands of blog posts (including plenty here) condemned Apple for being too closed, and in some cases hypocritical. Did they open the store up? No. They just perfected their closed system.

The only way your ads can have any impact is if they convince people to stop buying Apple products. But that won’t happen either. The side-effect of making quality products is that people want them. They want them even in some cases if they don’t like you, or agree with certain actions. And the fact of the matter is that despite these ads, most people won’t have any idea what all of this is about — nor would they care if they did. They’ll just buy what they consider to be a quality product.

So that leaves your only real hope: the government (ugh). And you’re trying to make that happen. But again, that’s not going to work. While Apple may control a significant percentage of the mindshare in the market right now, they do not control a majority of the actual market share in computers or smart phones. They do in MP3 players, but that is a dying industry. As for the iPad, tablet computers are much too new of a category for the government to even think about regulating at this point.

So where does that leave you? Well, to be frank, shit out of luck.

On one hand, there’s an urge to feel bad for you. You really are getting screwed here. On the other hand, you really did it to yourselves.

When Apple first launched the iPhone in 2007, had there been a great, lightweight version of Flash for mobile devices, I bet that Apple would have almost been forced to use it. They offered it on their desktop browsers after all, and this new device was supposed to be putting the Internet in your pocket. It was no sure thing that this device would succeed at the time, and giving it every chance to (by including something like Flash) would have made sense. But there was no version of Flash ready that would run on the device (presumably without massive performance/battery hits). In fact, only now, three full years later, is a version of Flash running on mainstream mobile devices being shown off.

You gave Jobs three years worth of solid data (massive iPhone sales) to prove he didn’t need you. And now he’s using that knowledge in the iPad, the device which may or may not be the first step in the future of computing. And now others are rallying to his side because he grabbed the position of power.

And that’s not all.

You also screwed yourselves several years ago, when you couldn’t have possibly known you were doing it. To quote a passage from Jeffrey Young and William Simon’s 2005 book iCon Steve Jobs:

When Steve returned to Apple in 1997 he invited the executives of Adobe over and asked them to help him create a version of their video editing software for Mac. Even though it had been Steve and Apple that put the company on the map twenty years before, they now refused.

Whoops. You then followed that move up with nearly a decade worth of under-supporting (or simply not supporting) the Mac. I’m hardly the only one who has noticed this.

Sure, you had your reasons. The Mac had tiny market share and the focus was on Windows. But a decision was made, and now you have to live with it. And you can’t pretend none of that happened and write things today like:

“We believe that consumers should be able to freely access their favorite content and applications, regardless of what computer they have, what browser they like, or what device suits their needs.”

Um, where were you in 1997 for the Mac? What about 1998? 1999? And so on. There were plenty of Mac users out there that weren’t able to “freely access their favorite content and applications” — because of you.

Selective memory is great — until it comes back to bite you in the ass.

But all hope is not lost. There is something you can do to win this fight. It’s something so simple that I find it hard to believe you’re wasting your time and money on these embarrassing ads.

Make a killer product.

If you make a great enough product, you’ll force Apple to accept you. It has to be good enough that people will refuse to buy Apple products without it. A tall order, sure, but shouldn’t that be the goal of any product you make — to be the absolute best? Flash is not that product. Not right now anyway. Apple’s sales figures have already proven that.

But maybe you can use your growing relationship with Google to build a better version of Flash that runs on Android phones and soon their tablets. You have their growing platform, use it. Prove Apple wrong. That’s the only way this fight ends well for you.

You brought an advertisement to a gun fight. Poor choice. Time to rally. Apple once proved you wrong. Now it’s your turn. Or not. Victors. Spoils. Etc.

P.S. When you’re leaving notes all over the web trying to convince people how open your technology is, maybe leave out the Registered® Trademark® logos next time.

[images: Paramount Pictures]