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Adobe's Mobile Strategy: Not Dead Yet

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Kevin Lynch, Adobe's chief technology officer, used his kickoff keynote at Adobe MAX 2011 to launch the Creative Cloud, a cloud-centric approach that includes a subscription approach and a community/collaborative element. Lynch's underlying message, though, in demonstrating a number of touch-based applications, was that Adobe's mobile strategy is far from dead.

"Just like our desktop applications are available on multiple platforms," said Lynch, "our touch-based applications will be available on multiple tablet operating systems."

For those who expected Adobe to bring out its dead, to paraphrase a famous Monty Python skit, Lynch's keynote was intended to show that its mobile strategy is not dead yet.

"A number of the applications we're showing today will first be available on iOS," said Lynch, referring to the operating system that powers Apple's iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch. "The other applications will first be available on Android, but we plan to make all the applications we're showing today available on both platforms."

In our article on the HP TouchPad's demise, we brought into question Adobe's multi-platform Flash Player mobile strategy when Android appeared to be the last operating system alternative to Apple's iOS. In Lynch's keynote, there was no mention of two mobile operating systems Adobe touted at last year's MAX -- Microsoft's Windows 7 Phone and the WebOS that HP acquired from Palm and is actively shopping around to other handset and tablet manufacturers after HP killed off its own phone and tablet devices.

Yet Lynch pointedly mentioned the Research In Motion Playbook, which is powered by RIM's QNX operating system, as another mobile operating system that Adobe plans to continue support for.

It was not clear, though whether QNX would receive the six applications that Lynch demonstrated on Android or iOS devices, or whether QNX would be relegated to the role that Linux plays in Adobe's desktop strategy: a third operating system on which Flash Player is available but which does not have equal standing to the Macintosh and Windows desktop operating systems due to a lack of Linux-compatible desktop applications.

The lack of clear support for applications on QNX may be Adobe's attempt to see whether RIM emphasizes its newfound love for Android applications within the emulator that RIM has showcased several times during the past six months. The emulator is a QNX application that allows multiple Android applications to be run on PlayBook hardware, in no small part due to the fact that the PlayBook uses the same processor as several Android tablets.

Lynch spent the majority of his Android demonstration time on stage with a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, the closest Android tablet in size to Apple's iPad 2. The choice was curious given the uncertainty of Samsung's ability to sell the tablet in a number of countries.

For those who may not have followed the saga of the 10.1 inch Galaxy Tab, and its sister Galaxy S II handset, Apple claims that the devices are so close in appearance, functionality and performance to Apple's phone and tablet devices that it is suing for patent infringement.  Both companies are now locked in a series of bitter lawsuits and injunction attempts in Australia, Europe, and North America, with Apple successfully winning injunctions against selling the Galaxy Tab in Germany and the Australian continent.

For Adobe, the chance to somewhat interchangeably use both a Galaxy Tab and an iPad on stage during its keynote demonstrations may be an attempt to emphasize its refined mobile strategy: taking the middle ground between mobile touch-based platforms, at least when it comes to applications. While there's no chance we'll see Flash Player on the iOS platform anytime soon, if ever, Adobe demonstrated in the keynote that AIR-based applications can be run just as easily on iOS as they can on Android devices.

Whether Adobe continues to breathe life into Android and QNX by continued support, or moves to a Swiss-like neutral approach to all touch-based operating systems with its emphasis on the Creative Cloud, remains to be seen. The message taken away from the kickoff Adobe keynote, though, is that its mobile strategy approach seems to be far from dead and may -- according to the company -- have enough legs under it get up and take a walk.

Adobe MAX continues at the Los Angeles Convention Center through Wednesday.

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