Adobe Targets Apple with Ads, Open Letter

In an unusual move, software giant Adobe has launched a substantial advertising campaign taking Apple to task for excluding middleware layers—like Adobe Flash CS5 from its upcoming iPhone OS 4.0…and posted an open letter in which the company’s founders accuse Apple of undermining “the next chapter of the Web.”

Adobe’s campaign is apparently a tongue-in-cheek effort to rally support for Adobe’s Flash platform, and marks the latest escalation in the increasingly bitter battle between the companies. Some of the online advertisements feature a “We ♥ Apple” graphic, with a second panel saying “What we don’t love is anybody taking away your freedom to chose what you create, how you create it, and what you experience on the web.” Adobe has also taken out similarly-themed print advertisements in The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and The Financial Times.

In a brief open letter from Adobe founders John Warnock and Chuck Geschke, Adobe paints itself as a proponent of open systems, noting that it publishes specifications for its Flash technology and that “anyone can make their own Flash player.” (Though true, Adobe made the SWF specification available less than a year ago as part of the Open Screen Project.) Warnock and Geschke accuse Apple of taking an opposite approach in favor of closed systems, concluding “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 campaign comes in the wake of Apple CEO Steve Jobs posting an open letter in which outlined Apple’s reasoning for excluding Flash from the iPhone platform, as well as barring iPhone applications built on middleware layers like Flash CS5. In his statement, Jobs cited technological reasons behind Apple’s decision, and asserted Flash is a closed technology; instead Apple is embracing open standards like HTML 5 and H.264 video. However, the most important factor Jobs cited is not letting the iPhone platform be held hostage to third party development tools that would prevent Apple from innovating its platform and lead to the creation of “sub-standard” apps.

Apple’s decision has been a particularly harsh blow for Adobe, which has been working hard to get full versions of Flash up and running on mobile platforms—and with Apple’s decision, the company has found itself excluded from that is arguably the most important mobile platform currently on the market. (The ability to generate iPhone applications was to have been a major selling point for Adobe Flash CS5.) Industry reports have Adobe as the instigator behind U.S. regulators apparently looking into Apple’s decision to exclude Flash technology from the iPhone platform.

Adobe’s intentions with its advertising blitz aren’t entirely clear: some industry watchers are backing Adobe, saying Apple has no right to play Big Brother with its platform and decide what content users may or may not access. Others say Adobe’s move reeks of desperation, and amounts to little more than a passive-aggressive attempt to sway public opinion against Apple.

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