What if Adobe turned Behance into the next platform for app developers?

Editor's Corner
Shane Schick

Few mergers and acquisitions are easy to predict, particularly in the technology space, where certain combinations of software or hardware may only make sense to a few strategic thinkers. In the case of Adobe, however, there was probably nothing more natural, more inevitable and possibly game-changing as its decision to follow up the purchase of Behance with Thumb Interactive.

Adobe bought Behance last year, probably because it has emerged as the place where its core target market displays the results of using tools like its Creative Suite programs. If you work in advertising, marketing, media or other sectors where graphic design is important, Behance is the place where you uploaded the best of your work. It is to creative professionals what Facebook is to the masses: a place to connect, share and (let's face it) show off. Of course, not everyone will want to take the time to gaze at a Behance profile while sitting behind one of Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) giant flat-screen monitors. That's where Thumb Interactive came in, and its mobile apps for Behance could bring an equally compelling experience for Behance users on their smartphones or tablets.

As Adobe transitions to more of a cloud-based provider of graphic design products and services, Behance becomes the venue that validates and maybe even justifies the investments professionals make in its wares. Thumb Interactive will be a critical part of keeping Behance content where users are most likely to be.

What's not as clear, at least at the moment, is whether Adobe might take the next step--developing a true app ecosystem around Behance that could open up opportunities for other independent developers. Although you could argue Behance is strictly a business site that caters to professionals, these are not accountants, lawyers or sales people. They are photographers, illustrators and videographers--creative types that may be more open to apps connected to Behance that straddle the line between work and play. There are tons of possibilities on a service like this for apps that help organize profiles into categories, alert users to updates and share or socialize (brainstorm) via smartphones. I think there could even be some interesting mobile gaming possibilities--this is an audience that would probably welcome games that help to inspire their next project or give them a chance to "compete" on various design challenges.

Behance may never be the size of Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), but like Facebook, LinkedIn and similar services, it could become a true platform for all kinds of engagement. The main difference is that it represents a unique subset of the consumer population--one that might be willing to pay for certain apps, and one that would certainly appreciate greater functionality. Thumb Interactive will surely shoulder some of that work, but there is scope for much more.

Adobe may be busy enough just integrating these two acquisitions and evolving its Creative Cloud suite to think about these things right now, but I'm holding out hope the company won't ignore this opportunity indefinitely. There are plenty of app developers that could give some Behance users a run for their creativity.--Shane