Adobe's CEO is losing sleep thinking about Microsoft

Adobe's CEO is losing sleep thinking about Microsoft.

Adobe's CEO, Bruce Chizen: “But when I think about competitors, there's only one I really worry about. And it's one that happens to have $35 billion in revenues and $50 billion in the bank. And it happens to be in the software business. Microsoft is the competitor, and it's the one that keeps me up at night.

If I had the opportunity to meet with Bruce, I'd tell Bruce how Adobe became great. Here's how: Adobe bet early on new platforms. It was one of the first companies to bet on the Macintosh. It was one of the first companies to bet on Windows NT and Windows 95. How do I know that? Because back in 1995 I was a beta tester for Adobe. In fact, I reported more bugs in Acrobat that year than anyone else (Adobe gave me a $1400 Postscript laser printer for that accomplishment). How did I do it? I had betas of the Mac OS, Windows NT, and Windows 95 and I had Fawcette's library of dozens of magazines, all of which were done in Pagemaker format (Visual Basic Programmer's Journal was one of the few magazines to bet on Adobe all the way).

Adobe fixed the hundreds of NT bugs in Acrobat that I reported. That impressed me. Almost no one was using NT back in 1995. I think more people were using OS/2 and NeXT. But Adobe bet big on Microsoft's operating systems and now is reaping the rewards (NT became Windows XP, and it's my theory that most of Adobe's recent growth comes from XP-based customers).

Let's go back to 1984: Did Warnock and Geschke worry about what Apple would do to them? After all, back then Apple was far bigger than Adobe (and, if you talk to pioneers like Dave Winer, they were scary back then too). I watched Adobe back then. Adobe came out with Postscript, a ton of fonts, and later Illustrator. Served a new market that hadn't been served. Took advantage of new trends and new platforms from Apple.

Jump forward to 1995. Did Adobe worry about Apple (which was still bigger and still controlled its major platform) or Microsoft (which was bigger yet)? I don't know, but the 1990s saw Adobe come out with Photoshop, Acrobat, Indesign, and tons of other stuff that served markets that Apple and Microsoft simply didn't see.

So, in the Longhorn timeframe, will Adobe behave as it has in the past? Will it come out with a handful of “killer apps” that just turn the industry on its head? I hope so. I can't wait to see what the guys who did Photoshop and Illustrator and Indesign and After Effects come up with for Longhorn.

Bruce, how can Microsoft work with you to help you find new unserved markets? How can we work with you to rebuild your existing apps to take advantage of the new platform technologies in Longhorn? How can we help you come up with a “killer app” for Longhorn? That's what I'm losing sleep about.

Update: I changed this post to correct an error. Aldus came out with Pagemaker and was later purchased by Adobe. Adobe did the Postscript page description language for Apple's first laser printer.  [Scobleizer: Microsoft Geek Blogger]

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