Adobe continues fighting a war it can't win

Sometimes people don't know when to give up the fight. On Friday night, former world boxing champion Hector "Macho" Camacho Sr.--now almost 48 years old and two decades past his sporting prime--lost to unheralded journeyman Saul "Baby" Duran in a 10-round unanimous decision; it was Camacho's eighth loss in his last 10 fights, and reports indicate he was simply outmatched by the competition. There's speculation he will now hang up his gloves for good, but in boxing, you never know. Camacho's stubborn refusal to move on from the ring reminds me a lot of Adobe Systems' equally hardheaded unwillingness to give up its increasingly public and increasingly futile war of words with Apple: The latest salvo finds Adobe launching a new advertising campaign proclaiming "We Heart Apple," with the punchline taking a swing at Apple's decision to block cross-compiler translation tools like Adobe's Creative Suite 5 from the iPhone platform, contending "What we don't love is anybody taking away your freedom to choose what you create, how you create it and what you experience on the web."

The ads are disingenuous at best--the heart notwithstanding, there is clearly no love lost between Adobe and Apple. Last month, in the immediate wake of Apple's Flash apps ban, Adobe platform evangelist Lee Brimelow published a remarkably candid and raw Flash Blog post confronting Apple's actions head-on: "What [Apple is] saying is that they won't allow applications onto their marketplace solely because of what language was originally used to create them," Brimelow wrote. "This is a frightening move that has no rational defense other than wanting tyrannical control over developers and more importantly, wanting to use developers as pawns in their crusade against Adobe... Speaking purely for myself, I would look to make it clear what is going through my mind at the moment. Go screw yourself, Apple." That's a long way from "We Heart Apple," but at least it's honest--the new ad campaign is anything but.

Somewhat more effective is an open letter published by Adobe co-founders and chairmen Chuck Geschke and John Warnock, reading in part "We believe open markets are in the best interest of developers, content owners, and consumers. Freedom of choice on the web has unleashed an explosion of content and transformed how we work, learn, communicate, and, ultimately, express ourselves... If the web fragments into closed systems, if companies put content and applications behind walls, some indeed may thrive--but their success will come at the expense of the very creativity and innovation that has made the Internet a revolutionary force." Apple CEO Steve Jobs vehemently disagrees with the contention that Flash is open, mind you--in his own open letter, published in late April, he writes "Adobe's Flash products are 100 percent proprietary. They are only available from Adobe, and Adobe has sole authority as to their future enhancement, pricing, etc. While Adobe's Flash products are widely available, this does not mean they are open, since they are controlled entirely by Adobe and available only from Adobe. By almost any definition, Flash is a closed system... Rather than use Flash, Apple has adopted HTML5, CSS and JavaScript--all open standards."

Apple has not publicly responded to the Adobe campaign--it appears the company is moving on, and it's time Adobe does the same. It's waging a war of words it can't win. Apple is virtually impervious to public pressure--both developers and consumers have expressed their frustrations over Flash's absence from the iPhone platform, but neither sales of Apple products nor submissions to the App Store have suffered as a result. Adobe's ad campaign will do nothing to change Jobs' opinion of Flash--if anything, it will only cement his distaste for the solution. Besides, the real battle isn't between Apple and Adobe anyway: It's between Apple and Google, which has already lined up Flash Player 10.1 as a key addition to its Android arsenal. And that fight's going to be a heavyweight slugfest for the ages. -Jason