Google Chrome: Bad news for Adobe

What’s good for the Internet is good for Google, and the company says its strategic proposition for the newly introduced Chrome browser is: a better platform is needed to deliver a new generation of online applications.

What other companies have lately been trumpeting the same slogan? Microsoft through its browser plug-in Silverlight for .NET apps and Adobe through its browser plug-in Flash for Flex/AIR Rich Internet Applications.

Unlike Apple or Mozilla (which respectively rely on Safari and Firefox browsers without plug-ins) Microsoft and Adobe rely on proprietary plug-ins and runtimes to deliver across platforms what we’ve come to know as RIAs.

Chrome, party pooper


In jumps Google with Chrome. Not a plug-in. Not exactly another runtime. But a full-fledged browser. One that behaves, however, as a platform to host applications best tied to cloud computing with built-in local persistence for offline computing. Sure, in its current form Chrome can’t compete with Silverlight or Flex/AIR for what Adobe calls “expressiveness,” meme-speak for rich graphics, animations, integrated video and other visual UI goodies.

As we pointed out months ago in Runtime wars (2): Apple’s answer to Flash, Silverlight and JavaFX, Apple has been furiously adding “expressive” flair to WebKit. Just like Chrome, both Safari and Firefox will soon be speeding up JavaScript performance of their browsers substantially as well. To such execution speed and expressiveness, Chrome adds memory protection, domain segregation, smoother tab management, application localization, better security and a host of other features that would make any other RIA platform flush with envy.

Who needs Adobe AIR then?

Not the millions of .NET developers around the world. Adobe had a narrow window of opportunity to convert this bulwark of enterprise app creators through Flex/AIR, but Microsoft neutralized that threat fairly quickly with Silverlight. Microsoft developers continue to use, for example, underpowered BizTalk for workflow or the hair-ball SharePoint for collaboration not because they are the best in their class, but because they are conveniently available to them and hook into most other Microsoft properties better than other apps. Silverlight has always been the presumed next step for .NET developers, and Adobe had no real hope of changing that fact in any substantial way with Flex/AIR. Adobe’s target has really been the non-Microsoft crowd, those who wanted to move from static websites to dynamic, data-driven web apps at the enterprise level.


Adobe had a head-start. The ubiquitous Flash begat Flex that begat AIR, the final key to uniting the desktop with the cloud, on- or off-line. At this point, Flex and AIR are the most advanced development and delivery platform for RIAs. They run on multiple OSes and are backed by a company that understands graphics. Had there been no Silverlight, Adobe could have posed a significant headache for Microsoft’s .NET constituency. Unfortunately for Adobe, that window of opportunity has been closing fast.

Chrome may shut it off for good. It’s possible that various open source Chrome technologies could melt into Safari and Firefox. But –– whether as a stand-alone product or a progenitor of fast, powerful and expressive browsers –– Chrome signals to anybody but the diehard Microsoft constituents that the browser itself, not a proprietary plug-in or a separate runtime, is the future of RIAs. With its huge ecosystem, Microsoft can live with that. At least until its enterprise monopoly seriously erodes. But Adobe cannot.

In a world where the online pie is divided among the .NET army of Microsoft, the browser-gang of Apple+Mozilla+Google, and the lone Adobe, it’s not difficult to predict whose share will shrink into insignificance. If the exclusion of Flash from the iPhone wasn’t a wake-up call for Adobe, Chrome should certainly be one.

36 thoughts on “Google Chrome: Bad news for Adobe

  1. more misinformed nonsense.

    Sure I’ll look forward to HTML5 getting ratified and widespread with 95% of take-up with consistency of user experience like Flash does.

    But to be honest the trick is authoring tools.

    To be honest, no one cares what platform/runtime it takes to produce the wrappers/delivery around apps and content, they only care how they get there. The key is the designer/developer workflow. The rest is implementation details and reach (that 95% stuff again)

    One blatant point in the article is wrong: you can’t compare AIR (desktop client) to Silverlight. WPF, yes, but not Silverlight … provided WPF is cross-platform like AIR is…

  2. I think its necessary to look at the bottom line for the players involved in this rather than making the overly simplistic assumption that each is trying to increase their stake in the “online pie.”

    For Google, the bottom line is online advertising, and we know that the adoption of open standards is beneficial for their business model. Hence Chrome.

    The introduction of Chrome may be bad for Microsoft, but its not clear that it is also a threat to Adobe. Adobe makes money by selling professional design software, which has little to do with the proprietary nature of the Flash runtime.

    Adobe has little to gain from trying to impose a proprietary technology on the web, especially with the introduction of Silverlight as a direct competitor. Adobe knows this – that’s why they’re actively opening up their technology like with the open source Flex SDK and the free compiler and are aggressively pushing actionscript in the direction of javascript through the ECMA.

    Through future versions of the ECMA script, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a single runtime integrated into the browser that can compile both actionscript and javascript (if there is a difference at that point.)

    People may scoff at the idea that Adobe would cede proprietary control of the Flash runtime in favor of an open standards based runtime. But lets look at the bottom line – anyone who wants to can develop targeting flash player without spending a dime on software with the Flex SDK and an open source IDE like FlashDevelop. This is not hurting Adobe’s ability to charge design professionals thousands of dollars for Creative Suite. Adobe would only sell more of its cash cow Creative Suite and would have a better chance of beating out Silverlight with open standards for RIA’s. So, Google Chrome: Good News for Adobe.

  3. Luis Alejandro Masanti : “Someone (Apple, Mozilla, Google, any company) should make a Flash/Silvertlight-replacement with SVG/JavaScript (or Ruby or anything).”

    Luis, I think that’s already in play with HTML5. As I pointed out in Runtime wars (2): Apple’s answer to Flash, Silverlight and JavaFX, Apple and WHATWG are firmly progressing along those lines. Canvas is at the center of it. The glue language for all this, JavaScript, is getting a potent shot in the arm. The graphics layer, at the level of SVG, needs more work. And so on.

    But we still need much better design/development tools to put all the pieces together, as you suggest above. Is that Adobe’s calling? Perhaps. But it’s really hard making money from open-source development tools. Where’s Apple when you need’em? :-)

  4. Berend Schotanus: “Wouldn’t there be any opportunity for Adobe to join the ‘Apple+Mozilla+Google browser-gang’?”

    IMO, the Apple+Mozilla+Google browser-gang (wonderfull term!) is going the “open standards” track with “implementation differences”: the 3 are using HTML/CSS/JavaScript and H.264/ACC/SVG… etc., etc..

    Adobe could “lead the market” modifing their applications to make easy developing with those standards… (in part, they already did)… but they would be losing almost all the investment in Flash!

    Someone (Apple, Mozilla, Google, any company) should make a Flash/Silvertlight-replacement with SVG/JavaScript (or Ruby or anything).

    That’s, at least IMO, the way to go.

  5. Correction to middle of my post – “in most IT shops supporting IE as the official browser, FF is typically the unspoken alternative. Google offers more than just a platform like Flex/AIR, it already has a full range of powerful apps and APIs people use everyday working in various IDEs and integrating in various 3rd party APIs. It’s the only thing I’ve seen that is making a wave in Microsoft dominated IT shops that I know. ” – hope that makes more sense.

  6. Agree with much of what Kontra said and disagree with many who mentioned alternatives to JavaScript/Chrome. The main, simplest reason Adobe will be in a losing fight in terms of web platform? The Big Two – Google and Microsoft – will never make themselves dependent on or promote Adobe platform and strategy. I’ve worked in the public and private IT sectors for more than 10 years witnessing the rise of the Internet. The move away from Sun/Java to MS/.NET from what I’ve seen is only picking up steam, to the degree that I’m willing to bet most State and local governments are mostly Microsoft shops now, with heavy investment that will not change for years. Adobe is not making a dent in the Microsoft platform. Those with long term career advancement in mind in general IT and not just web design all choose to learn ASP.NET instead of Flash/Flex. JSP and servlet programmers aren’t going to convert to JavaFX graphic web designers, but those managers considering FOSS/Sun for medium size enterprise solutions might take a look at Flex and consider it might cut down development time and the application server cost is on a par or lower than most enterprise Java servers. ColdFusion/Flex server implements full J2EE anyway so you get two in one if you REALLY want to try out Java. Those few shops willing to go FOSS typically end up implementing web apps in PHP/MySQL instead of J2EE simply because it’s cheaper and easier. Adobe is still king of desktop publishing, but it’s enterprise web app platform is still playing third or forth rank, and there are too many reasons for .NET or PHP shops to not reinvest or change philosophy to move to Flex. The growth of Chrome? Anyone who’s willing to download and use Firefox will to give it a try. And in most IT shops Flex/AIR, it already has a full range of powerful apps and APIs people use everyday working in various IDEs and integrating in various 3rd party APIs. It’s the only thing I’ve seen that is making a wave in Microsoft dominated IT shops that I know. The best thing for Adobe is to offer their software ways to hook into non-MS platforms and portals. Proprietary runtime plug-ins will never make the main course on web content – that is the reason the Web took off and the standards bodies will keep it that way. Sure, Flash beat out Java applets, but after 10 years it’s still mainly HTML that mark up the final rendered web page for most web sites. JavaScript inadequate? Despite the combined might of Sun (with Java), MSFT (with JScript/VBScript/ASP), Adobe (with Flash/CFML), and every other new scripting language trying to kill it for that last 10 years, it is still going stronger than ever. I’d put my money on JavaScript sticking around for a long time.

  7. Pingback: Javascript v. Flash/Air

  8. Pingback: Chrome, Web Stantards Vs. Flash / Silverlight | BeckLog: Beck Novaes’ Web Log

  9. I tried Chrome and am currently unimpressed, I guess it’s perhaps consumer resistance but I can’t see any real advantages. There is one thing that dismays me about the package – the awful 1980s style ‘jelly mould’ logo; move on Google the logo is dreadful.

  10. Simply: this is not true.
    If I am application developer I have several possibilities for technology:

    Java Applet – but Java has not great support for client application and there are problems with instalation of JRE on Linux or on Google Chrome.

    Silverlight – but Silverlight is MS technology and there will always problems on not MS OS (Linux, Mac).

    Javascript – There will be a lot of users with many different browsers (IE, Safari on Mac, mobile users) and compatibility will be always a problem. Javascript has not good layout system, there are only a few components.

    Flash/Flex – IMHO it is best chosing. But there is problem with iPhone.

  11. Mark: “How is Chrome going to end up installed on millions of computers?”

    While I don’t get paid to solve Google’s problems :-) I can note that Chrome has already garnered roughly 2.5% share of 45,000 unique web sites on Clicky Web Analytics in a single day. Scared yet? :-)

  12. How is Chrome going to end up installed on millions of computers? What incentive is there for large masses of people to install it? It took years for Firefox to get a foothold, and that was because Microsoft was asleep for a while.

    Adobe has a huge advantage: most computers have Flash installed, hence FLEX.

  13. Great Work from Google, Let Adobe, IE7, keep their Products, at least we have what we have been waiting for so long, Ohh Google I love the term “Inspect Element” It makes life lots more easier than ever, esp to we “Developers”. Keep up the Good Work Googs!

  14. Berend Schotanus: “Wouldn’t there be any opportunity for Adobe to join the ‘Apple+Mozilla+Google browser-gang’?”

    Yes, there would be. And it’s not an unlikely scenario. The problem is Adobe makes money from selling development and deployment licenses. They’d have to accentuate their differentiators (expressiveness, ease-of-development, declarative language, video integration, etc) to justify additional cost. They’ll likely have to forgo some revenue sources as well. I intend to explore these in a future essay.

  15. Vasudev, what I meant is that I don’t think with Flex/AIR Adobe realistically targeted .NET developers (with so much invested in the Microsoft ecosystem) for conversion. Bread and butter internal corporate apps are done on various MS platforms and aren’t likely to go anywhere else anytime soon. Flex/AIR hasn’t made a dent in that area and Adobe knows that.

  16. “Gears is a browser dependent entity. Adobe AIR is a runtime.”

    You’re stock in nomenclature. Chrome (incorporating Gears and other bits) is, I think mistakenly, labeled as a “browser”. But its functionality and trajectory are exactly the same as AIR’s: melding of the desktop and the cloud, as mentioned above. Creating desktop apps with AIR that do NOT make use of the cloud is pointless. So to the extent that the user clicks a shortcut on the desktop to start an app to bring the cloud to the desktop, there’s no fundamental difference between AIR and Chrome.

  17. “The rise of Javascript”??

    LOL. Javascript rises so much that Google doesn’t even want to make it the default programming language for their GPhone, instead they put in a different flavor of Java AKA Android. You should know it better when Google doesn’t even eat their own dog food, ain’t you?

    Everytime I hear people saying browsers are a platform, I just laugh. No so fast, Johnny, not until someone overhauls HTML which was designed to be documentation tags rather than a capable app platform.

  18. Unless and until the Google Chrome EULA stating that anything posted using Chrome is available for Google to use as it sees fit without giving you even credit for it, Chrome is deader than a dead duck. It seems that as power moves slowly but surely from Microsoft’s hands to Google, Google is beginning to emulate Microsoft’s operational tactics. Chrome’s EULA is very similar to Microsoft Passport’s terms of service.

  19. Interesting analysis, overall, and it seems right to me – though of course, only time will tell what is really going to happen – there could be any number of events (unknown as of now) that upset your predictions.

    However, this statement seems to be either (a) a mistake or (b) an inappropriate (and misleading) choice of words (for something else you may have meant):

    “Adobe’s target has really been the non-Microsoft crowd, those who wanted to move from static websites to dynamic, data-driven web apps at the enterprise level.”

    I really don’t see any justification for your saying that.

    The non-Microsoft crowd (actually, even the Microsoft crowd), by which I presume you mean all those running on OS’s other than Windows, has had the ability to create “dynamic, data-driven web apps” at the enterprise or any other level for quite a long time – i.e. ever since CGI was introduced in the Web 1.0 era. (Though CGI was slow because it spawned a new process for each request, it did work).

    Java servlets (which removed the process-per-request limitation of CGI), JSP (builds upon servlets), JSF (like an advanced JSP but maybe something more), EJB, J2EE (now called JEE) – which includes servlets, JSP and EJB in it, Python with CGI or with Django or any other web app framework, PHP with CGI or CakePHP or other frameworks, Perl with CGI or with Catalyst or other framework, Ruby with Rails or Merb or other framework, and many other languages (with CGI) besides – all of these have been and are ways of doing what you say – creating dynamic data-driven web apps – and some of them have been around for years – e.g. Perl/PHP/Python with CGI (don’t know when CGI was created but it was definitely a while before servlets), Java servlets (came in 1997 or so), JSP and J2EE came a little later than servlets but definitely before or by the year 2000, etc. Even Rails is around 5 years old. Perl+CGI was one of the first technologies to enable the dynamic data-driven web, and even C with CGI has been used in web apps.

    – Vasudev

  20. Silverlight is not a viable web technology. It’s an option only for closed MS’only desktop-only shops.

  21. Pingback: Google Chrome: Why I’m Not Excited | Gordon's Blog

  22. Gears is a browser dependent entity. Adobe AIR is a runtime. I am a developer who use both technologies. Gears is used to incorporate offline capabilities to browser based applications. AIR is used to build desktop applications. AIR is browser independent.

    @Chris, ..and hence you are wrong. And your anti-proprietary attitude is in conflict with open source interests.Read this:
    That press release implies ,Adobe <3 Gears.

    As Santa says, the article author is “Incredibly wrong”.

  23. Chrome isn’t just bad news for Adobe… it’s bad news for everyone until they change their Terms of Service to stop claiming perpetual, irrevocable rights to use anything you enter using Chrome. Until then, I won’t be using it.

  24. To “Lets violate” and “John K”, these technologies are quite comparable. First, Google is packaging their Gears off line runtime with Chrome. Second, they are trying to help support a richer UI without resorting to proprietary technologies (flash/silverlight). This was clearly an attempt to keep the open standards of (html/js) up to speed with the competition.

  25. As Adobe puts it, I think that what’s needed is ‘ “expressiveness,” meme-speak for rich graphics, animations, integrated video and other visual UI goodies.’

    More concrete… an easy way to develop they! IMO, the reason “why Flash got it” is not the lenguage or the posiblitities but “the development envitorment”. Apple knows that from the iPhone experience: give developers easy to use (and free?) tools and a desirable target (iPhone/iPod touch) and they back you.

    WebKit is doing quite well in with standard. Google is following it with its support. SVG will come.

    But I think Apple/Mozilla/Google need to develop an easy to develop application, as easy as Adobe’s products, to make designers do their job in open-standard supported form.

    Then, create another open-standard supported (Ruby, PHP, etc.) server-side “easy and visual” developer environment… and we will defeat .NET, Flash and Silverlight.

    We need “easy to develop and deploy” tools for open standards based technologies.

  26. Funny. not comparable at all. Like the other poster said, you are comparing apples and oranges. Let see what “chromes” usage rate by the masses is in 2 years compared to firefox or IE.

  27. @Lets violate:

    The line between browsers and runtimes is getting thinner and thinner. With V8 and a real process model, Chrome might have just rubbed it out.

  28. “The rise of Javascript is going to surprise a lot of people.”

    Ok, then can we PLEASE get a better javascript with a real debugging infrastructure?

    If Google wants to pursue chrome (and good for them) then I think they need to spend some of that remarkable google brainpower on how to make js development easier and straight forward. I don’t need a full Visual app, but I want to see something about 5 steps better than firebug, that is responsive, and even more interactive.

    Then I’ll be convinced. Google needs to support the developers. Ballmer may be a goon, but he’s right: DEVELOPERS, DEVELOPERS, DEVELOPERS!

  29. Here is something a fourth grader knows,that you dont:

    A browser is a program that renders webpages the way the webpage creator wants it to be rendered.It may use plugins and activex controls to do this task depending on the site’s requirement and enduser’s will. A browser is not a plugin or runtime.

    Perhaps you should do a post comparing seagulls and Google chrome.

  30. Great analysis!

    Wouldn’t there be any opportunity for Adobe to join the “Apple+Mozilla+Google browser-gang”? I mean, I am a happy user of their CS3 suite and I would feel very much supported when they provide easy ways to make my creative output available on those modern browsers.

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