Roundarch Participates in a Panel About the Future of Adobe

Whether Adobe represents an aging dinosaur in an online world that is quickly passing them by or a force still to be reckoned with in a battle of giants for control of the world of rich Internet application solutions was the central theme of a panel discussion in which I recently participated at the Pacific Crest 13th Annual Global Technology Leadership Forum, in beautiful Vail, Colorado. The questions asked of the panelists, all of whom represented digital agencies working in the RIA space, were about what you’d expect: What kinds of projects do you work on? Is Adobe more or less relevant to your business than they were a year ago? When not using Adobe’s tools, what else do you use? Is HTML 5 going to take over the world? Since the conference attendees were all institutional investors looking to make portfolio decisions across a wide range of technology stocks, what they really wanted to know, of course, was, “Should I buy? Should I sell? Just tell me — what should I do?”

The panelists were, probably not surprisingly, mixed in their assessments of ADBE, but the opinions generally fell in line with the type of work that made up the bread and butter of each of the agencies. Those who specialized in more consumer-facing applications felt that Adobe, although still obviously leading the pack for designers with their Creative Suite, had become far less relevant than they were a year ago in terms of the importance of the Flash platform. One agency even reported that whereas Flash development represented 25% of their new business in 2010, NONE of their new business in 2011 was being built with Flash; their customers simply preferred to make the trade off of reduced interactivity in exchange for a technology stack (HTML and JavaScript) that can easily be consumed on the iPad and iPhone.

On the other hand, the agencies like Roundarch that focus more on enterprise deployments where a richly interactive experience is key had a different perspective. Sure, customers are growing in their level of sophistication and better understand that there is a multiplicity of devices to be supported, but these needs are additive to the work on Adobe platforms, not in lieu of it. More importantly, however, was the recognition of the compelling story that Adobe is now telling with its Customer Experience Management strategy. For enterprise customers, the ability to tie together a workflow that starts with conceptual and production design and development with the Creative Suite with solid integration into deployment and ongoing content management using CQ5 and ends (or starts again) with usage statistics and analysis with Omniture is terribly attractive.

Let’s face it — if you’re looking at Adobe’s growth opportunity as being centered around their Creative Suite (a mature market with little growth opportunity if there ever was one) or their revenues related to Flash (meager at best), then they just aren’t that interesting from an investment perspective. But if you look at them with a slightly wider lens — one that is focused on their having finally put together a strong value proposition for the enterprise market backed by an extremely solid product suite — then the outlook for ADBE is a bit more exciting.