Finweek English Edition - - Communication & Technology - si­mond@fin­ FRIK ELS frike@fin­

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

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