Adobe Fires Back at Apple with Open Letter from Founders

Adobe has taken a while to collect itself after Steve Jobs’ very public explanation of why Apple and Flash will never be seen together at the same party.

The Adobe 'We love Apple' ad in this morning's Wall Street Journal Europe. Photo: Guardian

Adobe has taken a while to collect itself after Steve Jobs’ very public explanation of why Apple and Flash will never be seen together at the same party.

Today, it’s come out in a pretty big way with a new campaign aimed straight back at Apple. The advertising and editorial campaign stresses openness and criticizes Apple pretty directly.

In what could be viewed as a play on the beginning of Steve Jobs “Thoughts on Flash”, in which he talks about the great past and cooperation between Adobe and Apple, Adobe’s new ad starts off with a simple “We [heart] Apple.”

However, on the flip side of that ad is this little beauty: “What we don’t love is anybody taking away your freedom to choose what you create, how you create it, and what you experience on the web.”

The Adobe 'We love Apple' ad in this morning's Wall Street Journal Europe. Photo: Guardian

The adverts, using a variant of the famous “I love New York” motif created by Milton Glaser, have appeared in newspapers including the Wall Street Journal and San Jose Mercury and online on websites including Wired and TechCrunch.

The ad comes at the same time as an open letter from Adobe’s founders, Chuck Geschke and John Warnock that claims Apple ‘threatens to undermine the next chapter of the web’. Geschke and Warnock’s letter, titled ‘Thoughts on Openness’, says Adobe believes in the value of open markets as well as the freedom of choice:

The genius of the Internet is its almost infinite openness to innovation. New hardware. New software. New applications. New ideas. They all get their chance. As the founders of Adobe, we believe open markets are in the best interest of developers, content owners, and consumers. Freedom of choice on the web has unleashed an explosion of content and transformed how we work, learn, communicate, and, ultimately, express ourselves.

If the web fragments into closed systems, if companies put content and applications behind walls, some indeed may thrive — but their success will come at the expense of the very creativity and innovation that has made the Internet a revolutionary force.

We believe that consumers should be able to freely access their favorite content and applications, regardless of what computer they have, what browser they like, or what device suits their needs. No company — no matter how big or how creative — should dictate what you can create, how you create it, or what you can experience on the web.

When markets are open, anyone with a great idea has a chance to drive innovation and find new customers. Adobe’s business philosophy is based on a premise that, in an open market, the best products will win in the end — and the best way to compete is to create the best technology and innovate faster than your competitors.

That, certainly, was what we learned as we launched PostScript® and PDF, two early and powerful software solutions that work across platforms. We openly published the specifications for both, thus inviting both use and competition.

In the early days, PostScript attracted 72 clone makers, but we held onto our market leadership by out-innovating the pack. More recently, we’ve done the same thing with Adobe® Flash® technology. We publish the specifications for Flash — meaning anyone can make their own Flash player.

Yet, Adobe Flash technology remains the market leader because of the constant creativity and technical innovation of our employees.

We believe that Apple, by taking the opposite approach, has taken a step that could undermine this next chapter of the web — the chapter in which mobile devices outnumber computers, any individual can be a publisher, and content is accessed anywhere and at any time.

In the end, we believe the question is really this: Who controls the World Wide Web? And we believe the answer is: nobody — and everybody, but certainly not a single company.

Adobe’s advertising blitz is the latest move in a recent public feud between the two companies. The dispute centres around Apple’s refusal to support applications that use Adobe Flash on its iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch devices.

But Flash is popular with developers for building smartphone apps. Many developers use automatic translation tools – some built by Adobe – to convert Flash code so their apps can run on Apple gadgets. In April, Apple angered the developer community by changing the terms and conditions of the software development kit licence, banning them from using these tools.

Steve Jobs has dismissed Adobe’s Flash technology as a “closed system” and “100% proprietary”.

“While Adobe’s Flash products are widely available, this does not mean they are open, since they are controlled entirely by Adobe and available only from Adobe,” said Jobs. “By almost any definition, Flash is a closed system.”

Jobs also said Apple doesn’t need Flash. “Flash is no longer necessary to watch video or consume any kind of web content,” Jobs categorically stated. “And the 200,000 apps on Apple’s App Store proves that Flash isn’t necessary for tens of thousands of developers to create graphically rich applications, including games.”

The user base of both companies have also been at loggerheads in recent week. An online poll allows you to vote on which company you think is right, and to comment on why. At the time of writing, people are almost neatly divided on the subject, with 47% supporting Apple, while 53% support Adobe.

In a similar spirit, a recent Infoworld poll found that most readers are in Apple’s corner, and don’t want Flash on the iPad.

p.s. As for us, We love both: Adobe and Apple. But We love open markets. So, we love Adobe more. Sorry, Apple. [Adobe (Letter) and Adobe (Ad) via Engadget]

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