May 23, 2005

Adobe Aims to Be Even More Portable

Bruce Chizen was holding his company’s future in the palm of his hand. It was a Nokia cellphone with a 3-inch-by-2-inch color display, running a series of music videos and other snippets of digital entertainment material.

Source: Los Angeles Times
Written By Michael Hiltzik

Chizen, 49, is chief executive of Adobe Systems Inc., the innovative software company known until now chiefly for two products. One is the PDF, or “portable document format.” Adobe invented the format and dominates the market for PDF tools with its Acrobat software program and ubiquitous free PDF reader, which allows millions of computer users worldwide to view documents on their screens, no matter the type of computer, in a form that exactly replicates the original.

The other is Adobe Photoshop, a digital image-editing program so widely used by photographers that its name is in danger of becoming Xeroxified. (“Don’t worry about the bags under her eyes — we’ll Photoshop them out.”)

But the cellphone Chizen was waving at me in his San Jose office hinted at a new course for the company.

A few weeks ago, Adobe announced its acquisition of Macromedia Inc. for $3.4 billion in stock. The deal aimed to bring together Adobe’s strength in digital document creation with Macromedia’s in online content development through its Flash and Shockwave programs. While the deal would improve Adobe’s position among creative professionals whose palette is the Web, a more important target is the huge market represented by the tiny screen in Chizen’s hand, the third-generation mobile phones that will be the next big platform for pushing content at consumers.

The Japanese carrier NTT DoCoMo, Chizen explains, is already equipping phones like these with Flash players and PDF readers. “They want to take advantage of all the content out there,” he told me in the native Brooklyn accent he still sports as a badge, even after spending years on the West Coast as an executive at Mattel, Microsoft and Adobe. “They want subway maps” on the display. “They want ads to be viewed.”

The acquisition also is aimed at liberating digital computing from the death grip of Microsoft Corp. and its Windows operating system. For years, developers have found it almost impossible to write programs to run equally well on Windows machines, Apple computers, PDAs and cellphones without tediously rewriting the program and tweaking content for each individual operating system.

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