MORE THAN PHOTOSHOP
THE MIGHTY Google may be one of Adobe Systems’ fiercest rivals, but the latter has one achievement that Google will never be able to top. “To Photoshop” was the first piece of software to be turned into a verb. And you can Google that.
Adobe is probably best known for its Creative Suite applications that include Photoshop. The suite all but revolutionised the design and creative industries and is still the company’s number one revenue earner. In a world of free software it’s a testament to the popularity of the product among professionals that Adobe is able to command a steep price for it (US$3 200 for the so-called master collection).
However, a bare-bones Photoshop is in fact available for free online, and it’s probably with free software where Adobe’s future lies. The company’s Flash software, which ads interactive multimedia and animation capabilities to websites, is installed on some 98% of Internet-connected PCs. And 80% of all online videos on sites such as YouTube use the technology and about 40% of all cellphones also come pre-loaded with Flash, a number that is sure to rise. As with the popular PDF (Portable Document Format) reader, Adobe charges the sites, handset manufacturers or users no licence fees.
“Think of it in terms of Lego. We supply the platform on which the blocks (applications) can be built.” So says Chris Brennan, Director Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa for Adobe. This business model has worked well for the company. While it’s not immune to the global recession, pre-crisis Adobe was growing at 45% versus the total software industry’s growth rate of around 15%.
And in emerging markets, the company’s success was even more pronounced. Three years ago the company made a decision to move aggressively into emerging markets, including Asia, and Brennan established new offices in Moscow, Warsaw, Bucharest and Istanbul. Dubai and South Africa (from where the rest of the continent is serviced) have also been turned into stand-alone operations.
While the company is best known for its consumer products, Adobe is active in governments and large corporations. It was instrumental in the e-filing system developed by the SA Revenue Service and recently clinched a deal to do the same for the Polish Finance Ministry. In Russia, says Brennan, Adobe had a project to digitise information for all security forces, including the agency formed out of the KGB, and in Turkey the company has developed a digital signature system for cellphones to make mobile payments possible.
A bit like Lego. Chris Brennan