A decade ago, I designed and built large-scale web applications for companies all over the world. Using the cloud and mobile technologies available today, I would've built it faster, better, and less expensively -- and quite, quite differently. Here's how the world has changed in the last decade.
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.
Lynch could be instrumental in furthering Apple's cloud solutions. Although iCloud makes syncing and back ups of a user's personal content a breeze, it doesn't directly offer any of the advanced collaboration options found provided by companies like Box, Dropbox, and even Google. Building out iCloud's capabilities could be huge for Apple, which is continuing to dominate enterprise mobility market. Even something as basic as document sharing and editing added to iCloud would be a success.
Lynch's guidance of Adobe Creative Cloud took Adobe well past simple content syncing or file sharing. Creative Cloud offers a smorgasbord of high-end applications for a convenient monthly price, effectively opening tools that were previously cost prohibitive for individuals or small businesses. Apple could leverage something similar for its Pro apps, which target specialized professional niches like most Adobe apps.
The effective merging of cloud basics like storage and sharing with content creating apps doesn't even have to be restricted to high-end applications. One of Adobe's most successful services is Photoshop.com, which offers cloud storage, content sharing, training, and social aspects while engaging users from desktop and mobile apps.
We are entering unchartered territory when it comes to surveillance because of information broadcast from our smartphones even when they're off. Right now, it's the NSA collecting this data, but as computing power gets ever cheaper, it could be your local police or even the store you just entered.
It turns out that most IT departments no longer want to buy, install, and run software on their own servers, and the ancillary benefits of the cloud -- like easier mobile access for workforces that combine full-time employees and contractors -- seal the deal.
Adding to a string of announcements aimed at making its service more appealing to businesses, Dropbox this morning said that Dell will start selling the service to its customers.
The battle over which platform delivers the best location and context services to mobile users is already underway with Google in the lead, but Apple's purchase of mapping startups and social analytics firm Topsy, combined with its Bluetooth-based iBeacons could give Apple a strong chance.
Box is experiencing some good times these days with new features, new funding and a high profile CEO, but Box has to be careful as it grows to say true to its root and not fall into the trap becoming just another enterprise software company.