Suns CTO joins Adobe

This is one of those out of the frying pan into the fire stories. John Loiacono leaves the post of executive vice president of software at Sun (which he held since 2004) and becomes senior vice president of Creative Solutions at Adobe. If I read the Adobe site right, this means that John will have direct responsibilities for Adove Creative Suite of products which includes Adobe Photoshop, Macromedia Fireworks, Adobe Illustrator, Macromedia Freehand, Adobe GoLive, Macromedia Dreamweaver, Macromedia Flash, Macromedia Fontographer – basicly the core products except for Adobe PDF and Forms plus Macromedias eLearning tools. John will report directly to Adobes CEO, Shantanu Narayen.

John was in the frying pan at Sun because the stock markets were looking for Sun software to be able to monetize and add significantly to the Sun revenue stream with Suns heavy investment in Solaris and Java. But Jonathan Schwartz (Johns predecessor at Sun now CEO) and John worked triple overtime to Open Source both Solaris and apparently now, also Java. It is not yet clear that Sun has set in place aggressive service, support and training revenue streams to come out of Solaris and what will happen to JDS-Java Desktop System and JES-Java Enterprise System as Java goes Open Source is now up in the air. In short Sun has yet to set up the type of revenue streams that say Redhat, MySQL, Trolltech or JBoss (now a part of RedHat) are enjoying. So prior to the big manpower cuts at Sun its time to exit – stage right to Adobe.

Adobe is no Picnic

But Adobe is no picnic either. There are three major products combos in the Creative Suite that have to be rationalized – Photoshop + Image Ready versus Fireworks, Illustrator versus Freehand, and GoLive versus Dreamweaver. There could have been a fourt, LiveMotion+After Effects versus Flash; but LiveMotion was terminated already by Adobe – just the sort of miscue that boggles the mind (see below).

But Adobe has major problems with all its Macromedia assets. Fireworks comes over having lead the parade along with Xara Xtreme toward a unified bitmap-vector designer/compositing tool. But Fireworks has had virtually nil innovation done on it for the last two versions. Meanwhile, Microsoft with the Acrylic/Expression part of its suite is getting into the fray with software that is picking up where Fireworks, ACDsee/Deneba Canvas left off (and Xara is actively pursuing) – i.e. innovating at combining vector graphics plus bitmap rasters in clever ways.

Meanwhile on the pure vector graphics side both Illustrator and Freehand are languishing while others like Microsoft Visio, Corel Draw and Designer, Autodesk 3DS, Maya, Toxik plus other Autodesk/discreet tools (the top end vector, animation and 3D graphics markets are now controlled effectively by Autodesk) among others are doing the interesting compositing, animation, surface mapping and “physics” plus databased innovations. High end Hollywood movie plus industrial design now drives almost all major innovation in graphics – and except for Photoshop, After Effects and a bit of Premiere – Adobe is out and largely looking in.

Even the Flash assets have lost luster. True the new Flash Player 8.5 (or is it 9??) continues to add amazing innovations but meanwhile the design and coding tools to support the Flash Player have been left in the dust. Flash 8 was a major disappointment because it served neither designers nor developers – it plunked itself in the middle with only the barest of tools to take advantage of all the new Flash Player goodies. Meanwhile Swift 3d, ToonBoom Studio, MindAvenue, Autodesk/discreet tools are taking 2D+3D animations to new places that again leaves Adobe/Macromedia looking in. Designers in particular have been shortchanged in Flash as it really moved to a programming dominated model with rapidly evolving ActionScript(read very steep learning curve for most designers). At least with Flex, Macromedia made the clean move to an Eclipse-based Flash development environ with drag and drop widgets, dynamic debugging, and multiple compile options. So the development side of Flash has .. uhhh will be taken care of with Flex 2.0 (but watchout for AJAX and OpenLaszlo tools among others).

Meanwhile designers got left behind because Flash 8 did virtually nothing for them. But Microsoft, ever alert to a vacuum, has taken advantage and its Sparkle/Expression Interactive Designer uses WinPF with XAML to do both 2D and 3D graphic design and animations – and with the ability to link to other members of Redmonds Expression suite (Acrylic vector graphics plus Quartz web designs). Suddenly Pop goes the Weasel – Vista presents Adobe with full fledged competition for Adobe/Macromedia in every category and with state of the art technology. Oh and the Flash Player distribution with IE – isnt that up for review in 2007 ??

Ohhh there is more trouble in River City. Dreamweaver. Another big disappointment has been Dreamweaver 8 version. Sure there are some nice source editing and CSS and Server behaviours. But Macromedia kicked away the opportunity to be the major players in AJAX technology. Instead they will be playing catch-up with Dreamweaver cum GoLive. Everybody and their Uncle including Unca Bill from Redmond have AJAX solutions, IDEs and frameworks out there. So instead of defining the standards, Dreamweaver will be playing without a full drag and drop two-way visual designer and without a dynamic step-through code debugger (able to work on client and server code both) and without the benefit of being first to define what an AJAX framework should be and AJAX-smart IDE should do.

Now some may say this is advantage because Adobe/Macromedia can use its Dreamweaver market share to influence how AJAX should go(given that its spinning in every direction – its going to stop global warming). Given that TIBCO has stumbled badly with its AJAX tool able only to support IE still (one year and waiting on Firefox and Safari support – and the latter maybe never). There is a glimmer of a window opening for Dreamweaver. But these gals and guys have missed as big as they have hit; so its not assured.

So lets do a quick summary. Adobe is fumbling on the merging with Macromedia, Autodesk has cut them off from the highend graphics, Microsoft has said “we want to eat your breakfast lunch and dinner” … ohhh and Apple is saying “slurp slurp” in the same fashion with its Garageband, Final Cut Pro, iTunes this, that and the other thing, Aperture and whats next Steve? And Linux …yee gods its Open Source. And now the boss is threatening to sue Microsoft over PDF. Wow talk about frying pan onto the firing line. Duck John, duck.

(c)JBSurveyer 2006