Don't slam Apple's newest hire: He brought Adobe into the post-PC world
Yesterday's news that Apple has poached Adobe chief technology officer Kevin Lynch raised eyebrows and questions about both Tim Cook's leadership of the company and Lynch's role future products or services. Much of the discussion has focused on Lynch's part in the battle between Adobe and Apple over the fate of Adobe Flash on the iPhone and iPad -- a battle that directly involved Apple's late CEO Steve Jobs.
Seizing on language from Walter Isaacson's biography of Jobs, Daring Fireball's John Gruber called Lynch a bozo and the decision a bad hire. The unspoken assumption here is that Apple wouldn't have made a play for Lynch if Jobs were still alive. Gruber's rationale is largely based on Lynch's steadfast portrayal of Flash as a key Internet technology and statements that Apple's decision to not support for Flash on the iPhone would prevent it from becoming a successful product.
Although there is room to question whether promoting a mobile version of Flash was the best strategy for Lynch to espouse while working at Adobe, making a such a concerted judgment on that basis alone misses the bigger picture. As CTO, he would have been involved in the development of virtually all Adobe products and services to one extent or another. He was heavily involved in guiding Adobe forward into a post-PC world. Flash may not have a role to play in that post-PC future, but several key Adobe technologies do and Lynch's fingerprints can be found in most of them offering tantalizing clues about potential roles for him at Apple.
Revolutionizing mobile and cloud at Adobe
Like many companies, Adobe has been adapting to today's mobile-first world. The company has done that in three key ways. First, it has created mobile versions of some of its core apps, Photoshop Touch being the standout example. It has also turned mobile devices into extensions of its desktop software with tools like Eazel for Photoshop. Last, but certainly not least, Adobe has adapted some of its existing print and digital publishing tools -- including Flash -- to creating mobile apps.
All of these transitions fall under Adobe's quest to create "multiscreen" solutions and would have involved Lynch's efforts as CTO as well as his oversight of Adobe's research and experience design teams. They're also impressive feats to pull off successfully and require an innovators mind to consider and achieve, particularly the idea of using a mobile device as an extension of a desktop application.
That vision of mobile technology could be one reason that Apple courted him. Numerous pundit have voiced concern about Apple's ability to innovate, particularly in the mobile space. Having overseen research and user experience design at Adobe would position Lynch as a potential replacement for Scott Forstall, who Apple fired in a massive executive shakeup last fall.
There's another big reason that Apple would be interested in Lynch. He was a key part of the growth of Adobe cloud services and subscription-based software licensing -- both of which would make him a valuable addition to Apple.
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