Open letter to @Adobe and @Adobe Air: the hidden part…

I don’t know if you had already read the open letter that Gary wrote recently discussing about the arguable marketing choice made by Adobe on Adobe AIR but also previously about the Flash Platform in general, but I suggest you to start from there before read this post.

If you know me personally or you are following me in the social networks or reading this blog you should know that I’m a big fan of Flash Platform, in particular of Adobe AIR.
I’m very committed to deliver amazing and cutting edge projects made with this fantastic technology and I’m involved in the community to spread the word about AIR.
From a developer perspective I’m 110% with Gary and the community; an amazing technology like Adobe AIR with really a lots of success behind in terms of developers and companies that adopted this technology and in terms of numbers of apps in released during the past few years in different platform.
AIR, in my opinion, should have a better commitment from the company that create it (partially).
Obviously I agree also that there isn’t any competition between Actionscript 3 and HTML5 (read Javascript), what you can really do with HTML5 is what a flash developer could do 5 years ago more or less.
But you can’t approach a discussion like this talking only from a developer perspective, you and we should see it from different angles also.
What I’m asking you is to follow me until to the end of this post then you can send me an email and ask me if I became totally crazy or insult me with a comment, no worries 😀

I usually goes to Adobe Max since 2006, first MAX organised by Adobe, and I remember quite clearly that few MAX ago during both keynotes nobody said anything related to new Flash Platform improvements or plan for the future of the platform.
At the beginning I was so hungry and I spent literally hours on the phone to talk with Adobe people because the 100% of my business was based on this technology and they can’t really think that HTML5 could be better that Flash Platform, in particular in 2011/2012 where the most coolest websites, RIAs and desktop applications were realised with Flash.
But have you ever tried to think from a different point of view this situation? Let’s assume for few minutes that we are inside the meeting room of the Adobe.
You have an amazing technology that millions of people is using to innovate and create the best software in the world but you are not earning what you expect from it, don’t you believe me? Take a look at this chart (ADBE):

ADBE stock 2011/2012


This is the graph of Adobe stock (ADBE) from January 2011 to December 2012, the value of the stock was for few months (close to October when usually Adobe Max takes place) lower than $28 and never greater of $35.
Great, obviously our white collars friends, aren’t so interested about which is the best technology in the market or how many people is using it; they care about numbers, how to increase the profit of the company and make happy the analyst to have a better position in the stocks market and with the shareholders.
These results weren’t so good for Adobe in fact, if you remember well, a lots of people started to leave the company, a lots of team was closed in USA or Europe to move the development side in India or in places where the developers are cheaper and Adobe started his commitment on the big new trend of new web technologies products like the Edge family for instance.
Everybody now knows very well the following story about the new products and how they are trying to improve the way to create websites and apps, and I guess the majority of us it’s not so happy about that.
But let’s take a look again to some numbers, the next graph will show you the Adobe stock value from 2012 to March 2014 basically in the period where Adobe left to push the Flash Platform and started to increase the investment on designers products:

ADBE stock 2012/2014

I think is quite explicit that the politic to start selling their products on Cloud (first big mover in the IT panorama), the decision to try to improve a new technology like HTML5 with new tools and so on, create around the Adobe what the management was looking for!
I agree with you that there are many ways to make money but from the metrics perspective they are going in the right direction and they did the right choices for now.
I’m not an economist and I can’t say if this strategy will pay in the long term but for sure in the short term they arrived where they wanted to be.

With this post I’m not trying to defend Adobe, but after many years where the Flash Platform is in this status I started to leave my angry mood and to interrogate myself on why they took this decision, honestly I can’t say if that it’s the only reason that drives Adobe in these big changes but excluding the technical side that’s the only way I can see this thing and now most part of their decision make finally sense.
All the comments I’ve read in the past and also in these days after the Gary’s letter to Adobe is completely true but often, as developers, we forget that it’s not just a design pattern or a performance optimisation that could save the world, the marketing and the market are the real drivers, in front of them also a big corporation like Adobe could defeated.

ADBE stock 2009/2014



Chris, the new product manager of Adobe AIR, replied to Gary’s open letter, you can read the answer in the official blog


Published by

luca mezzalira

Being associated with the industry since 2004, I have lent my expertise predominantly in the solution architecture field. I have gained accolades for revolutionising the scalability of frontend architectures with micro-frontends, from increasing the efficiency of workflows, to delivering quality in products. My colleagues know me as an excellent communicator who believes in using an interactive approach for understanding and solving problems of varied scopes. I helped DAZN becoming a global streaming platform in just 5 years, now as Principal Architect at AWS, I'm helping our customers in the media and entertainment space to deliver cost-effective and scalable cloud solutions. Moreover, I'm sharing with the community the best practices to develop cloud-native architectures solving technical and organizational challenges. My core industry knowledge has been instrumental in resolving complex architectural and integration challenges. Working within the scopes of a plethora of technical roles such as tech lead, solutions architect and CTO, I have developed a precise understanding of various technicalities which has helped me in maximizing value of my company and products in my current leadership roles.

17 thoughts on “Open letter to @Adobe and @Adobe Air: the hidden part…”

  1. Hello Luca! How are you?
    I read your article and by the end you’ll wonder: The increase in revenue is directly linked to the new model of marketing software (Creative Cloud). I haven’t information to believe that HTML5 was responsible for the company’s profits.

    1. Sorry but I disagree, read all the articles when in 2012 this happened and you will see a lot of business comment around this move, of course then the Creative Cloud was the Big driver to these results.

  2. Hi Luca, you know, I was a big fan of the Flash Platform too and my job was 100% focused on Adobe products.
    Anyway, although I’m completely agree with you I would like to tell you what I can not digest:
    Adobe had the duty to RESPECT all their developers, the companies and the communities who believed in it for years, informing them properly about what was happening (which it still doesn’t with AIR today) and avoiding to leave all of them in a “limbo”.
    I lost 6 months of my life (and a lot of money) hoping it was not real news the Flash/Flex die.
    With his attitude Adobe has already lost hundred or thousand of talented developers who believed in it and never coming back.
    As developer, who could ever trust Adobe today?

    1. I agree with you Fabio but the numbers are from their side, the creative cloud is growing the users base so for them users are users it doesn’t matter from where they arrive

  3. I think that you are for a large part right. However, Adobe didn’t have to completely abandon Flash to support HTML5. It’s not an all or nothing world, and Adobe should have made it very clear that they will be fully supporting the Flash Platform for the long term, and strengthened their customer base by giving us the ability to have both Flash and HTML5 tools in our toolbox and select the tool that is best for our own individual businesses and product. Instead, they practically did Apple, Microsoft, and Google’s jobs for them in killing off the competition to their own products by repeatedly stabbing their own customers in the back.
    While I see the economic necessity of supporting HTML5 (I have even shifted a lot of my own development that direction) I would rather Adobe strengthen Flash and increase the integration with HTML5 APIs for seamless user experiences. For example, native APIs to access core HTML5 features, such as Geolocation, Web Sockets, session history management, the File System APIs, WebRTC, etc. and even allow deep integration with the DOM, such as being able to use the browser loaded CSS3 stylesheets to natively control elements within the Flash SWF. Essentially, make Flash the uber-shim that delivers all the great parts of HTML5, with the robustness of AS3 and the native Flash APIs for rich UI. This would be a far better path than to have simply the browser silo and the flash silo, with nothing but ExternalInterface to try to translate between them. I mean, seriously, how cool would it be for the AS3 code to be able to introspect the current DOM and shadow DOM as you’re debugging the SWF, and be able to manipulate DOM elements and have those same DOM elements’ events be able to be listened to and handled in the Flash code?

    1. do you mean something like this: ?! 😀
      I agree with you the world is not all or nothing, in fact my analysis was to open our mind and view the this thing from another point of view, maybe it’s not right at 100%, but it’s another way to see the same thing and in my opinion has more sense this thing instead of see the situation from a technical point of view where everybody knows where is the truth

  4. Hi Luca, I agree with you partially. But I believe Creative Cloud was released too early, and is forced on consumers. The big data theft recently on Creative Cloud was one example that it wasn’t ready, and there were tons of issues with products, different sections of CC used to say, coming soon.
    The problem, as I think with Adobe is they have not been able to provide state-of-the art tooling for Flash / AIR, like Visual Studio or Unity3D. So, they are not earning anything from the tools they make for Flash / AIR.
    Adobe/MM have done big blunders in past, Central (not even properly launched), Flash Lite for example, and they just abandoned these products, while keeping developers in dark.
    If Adobe needs to make money from Flash / AIR, just fix the tooling (Flash Pro), not just throw Flash Player and AIR SDK with bunch of libraries on, and say, go make something. That’s not gonna work.
    I have an unfinished blog post on the topic as well, gonna finish it soon.
    // chall3ng3r //

    1. I really want to read your point of view, when your post will be ready can you share it adding a comment here please?
      I think is important talk about these things and see them from different perspective

  5. Ok, Money rules the world, and we have to deal with it. RIght ? It’s your point ? We already know ( even if we are stupid developpers who can’t even understand basic economic rules ). But even from economic point of view, kill a brilliant technology seems dumb to me. They have others product, so they’ll survive, but I can’t believe that Adobe could not do this transition in a better way,
    And maybe, a design pattern can’t save the world ( but some algorithms could ). Do you really think that marketing can ?

    1. Hi Bob,
      developers aren’t stupid man and if they are, I’m one of them so I’m stupid too! 😉
      A part of that, economic can’t save the world but drive it.
      You can develop the most amazing tool but if it’s not well accepted from that world it’s impossible to raise a huge success.
      It’s not me that is saying this, these are the market rules.
      If you check the latest Apple quarters for instance, you will see that they are earning more money than ever but the analysts don’t like this approach where they aren’t innovate like few years ago.
      Is it fine for you? did you remember that Apple few summers ago was richer than the Federal Reserve?!
      But the market doesn’t care about this things, it’s not everything related to money and neither technology, it’s a mix of booth that allow you to succeed.
      I really tried to find an explanation from the tech side to explain this situation but I didn’t find any answer as the most part of the community, this is the only one for now that make sense in my opinion.
      Maybe it’s not 100% true but it’s another point of view that could help us to reflect from a different angle.

  6. Hi Luca, This is a great post that opens up some other questions. I also made considerations about the markets and I even mentioned that earlier in a Tweet. @plugn_io.

    I see these points as two independent variables. One is the Creative Cloud which has undoubtedly been a step in the right direction to monetize the Adobe product line and make investors happy. The second are the developers and artists. The question is, would the share price of been even stronger if they had made sure that the developers and artists had been kept happy during the period of time from 2011 onwards and at the root of my message to Adobe was that I concluded that the answer would of been a resounding yes.

    As developers or artists that enjoyed the simplicity of the Flash IDE were left floundering, many did not embrace the creative cloud or did so with bitter feelings of hoping to move to alternatives A.S.A.P. They felt that Adobes stance on developer relations meant that they would always be subject to Adobes poor developer policy and, in turn, this meant that the developers that would of embraced the creative cloud have moved away from Adobe entirely. Unity is one of many technologies that have made a significant dent in Adobes market share – “Unity ranks#1 for mobile game developer technology survey, topping the list with 53,1% of developers reporting using Unity” –

    Given that a huge majority of the Unity guys moved from flash, this would mean that there would be significantly more mobile apps that would be produced with Adobes tools and any market researcher would say that these are areas that lead to sales of other tools in the product line up.

    To conclude; I believe that the monetization of Adobe products would have been even stronger if the Flash and Air tools that are already mature and capable systems were significantly boosted to the levels of development that major software should expect and a significant market share was lost over this period due to poor developer relations whilst most other competing companies achieved this with good developer relations, even though they were able to monetize what they had left. Other fortune 500 companies have tried to use HTML5 for major products, facebook and others being the biggest advocates, however their naive choices were later met with a reversal in their decisions and they moved away from HTML5. – “The biggest mistake we made as a company was betting too much on HTML5 instead of native…We burnt two years.” – Mark Zuckerberg”

    1. Hi Gary, thanks for reading my thoughts on this topic.
      Honestly I don’t know if with the Flash Platform they could have a drastic improvement on earnings but you remember that at this time the economical crisis was just started and they need to deal with this thing plus give to the investors something to believe.
      This mix of things for me cause that reaction.
      I also think that in the past few years they did many mistakes on the marketing side, not only for Flash and AIR.
      So if you add all these things probably you can have a better understanding of the situation, obviously I don’t believe I’m 100% right but it’s something for me that work better than the technical side explanation.

  7. Thank you for your post. I totally agree on it. Adobe People are not dumb, they just have shareholders to satisfy, like any other big company. This to me are the true reasons of progressively abandonning Flash, the reason are not technological.

    This is the same when Steve Job’s explained in 2010 why he hated so much Flash, this was not for technological or ideological reasons although he pretended so, the true reasons where strategical: he wanted developers to develop apps for and in his eco-system. Flash would have prevented many developers to develop apps for iOS: they might have develop Flash web sites for mobiles instead. “There is an app for that” was their moto at this time and trapping developers into their ecosystem was one of their main priorities.

    Also, in the shareholder’s point of view, maintaining the Flash Platform in the long terme might not be an attracting perspective. This might be specially true for runtimes: it is costly to insure consistent rendering on more and more types of computer and devices. Adobe built their success on software pieces like Photoshop and Illustrator, for end-users, not developers. This is the the kind of business they like and understand well. The success of CC proves them right…

    I regret it and wish they could sell the whole thing to another company that values more than them what they have in their hands.

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