I think people vastly underestimate Adobe and the strategic plan its been setting up over the past few years. What they've done at this point is to take their crown jewel, Flash, and turn it into a tool that allows them to compete with companies like Microsoft and Apple on just about every major strategic front.
When viewed in that context, I think today's news is pretty significant...
Adobe Systems is revamping its Media Player with a new interface and a deal that will let users of the software watch movies from Sony Pictures.
The interface update in the new version 1.1, due to ship Tuesday afternoon, presents users with a larger number of video shows. "There's more content that we surface earlier," said Ashley Still, senior product manager for Adobe Media Player.
The new Sony partnership means people will be able to watch full-length movies, including Jerry Maguire and Men in Black, on Adobe Media Player, she said. A total of about 600 shows and 25,000 individual episodes are available. Users can browse various content categories, selecting some as favorites, or subscribe to their own video feeds via RSS, Still said.
Now, if we're being completely honest, the Sony material seems to be mostly old stuff. But look at it from a different angle and you realize that Adobe is very quietly building up an infrastructure.
Its essentially a system in beta but its a system that could some day rise to compete with Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, et al in the video arena. In that regard it would seem to be just another pillar in a very impressive Adobe strategy that is becoming more evident by the day.
Look at what Adobe has accomplished in the last couple years:
1. Created an Enterprise Development Environment: Adobe Flex is still quite a ways behind tools like Visual Studio but its also improving very quickly. Combine that with the fact that its built around the proven model of Actionscript, a language Adobe is quickly innovating on, and you get a tool that might very likely turn into a significant threat.
2. Created a "Develop Once" Environment: For all intents and purposes it appears Adobe has succeeded where Java failed in that Adobe AIR applications are starting to pop up proving the platform's promise of "Develop Once, Run Anywhere". This is a powerful advantage for Adobe and one that their competition in the market (Microsoft, Apple) don't seem willing to compete with.
3. Expanded their virtual Monopoly in the "Rich Experience" Web: For all the Flash-Bashing that goes on it is still the most used environment for providing a "Rich" Web Experience and it shows no sign of weakening. The fact that no one seems to be taking Microsoft Silverlight seriously (outside the Microsoft Development Community) is a testament to how entrenched Adobe Flash is.
4. Expanded their dominance in Graphics (Photoshop), Web Design (Dream Weaver) and Video Editing (Premiere): This is pretty self explanatory but is still deserving of praise. A lot of companies let their past successes flounder when pursuing new initiatives but Adobe hasn't done that. Their graphics tools have shown continual improvement over the past few years.
5. Moved into the online content business: As I outlined above their entry is in its infancy but is fully functional which makes it one good push away from being a serious competitor.
All this leads to one important conclusion, Adobe is developing into a powerhouse and they're managing to do it almost completely under the tech media's noses. I'm certainly not suggesting you take your eye off of Microsoft or Apple but I think the wise bet is to be watching Adobe very carefully in the next couple years.
They might just surprise everyone.