Adobe aims ad campaign, open letter at Apple

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Montagues versus Capulets? Old school. Hatfields and McCoys? So passé. Yankees versus Red Sox? It’s lost its edge. But the conflict between Apple and Adobe over the future of the Web is just reaching its peak. On Thursday, Adobe made its latest border skirmish with a new ad campaign and an open letter.

The eye-catching ads in question display the message “We [heart] Apple” and the Adobe logo, then change to the following message:

What we don’t love is anybody taking away your freedom to choose what you create, how you create it, and what you experience on the web.

The second half of the one-two punch is an open letter published on Adobe’s Website, entitled “Our thoughts on open markets”—a clear jab at Steve Jobs’s “Thoughts on Flash” essay from last month—and written by Adobe co-founders John Warnock and Chuck Geschke.

Wanock and Geschke’s letter focuses on the ideals of openness and innovation:

When markets are open, anyone with a great idea has a chance to drive innovation and find new customers. Adobe’s business philosophy is based on a premise that, in an open market, the best products will win in the end — and the best way to compete is to create the best technology and innovate faster than your competitors.

But does it blend? Adobe touting its openness is a little bit of an eyebrow-raiser—sure, the company publishes specifications for many of its technologies, but it’s not as if Flash is goverened by anybody other than Adobe. At least Jobs had the forthrightness to admit that Apple itself uses propietary technologies for many things.

Jobs’s letter also had an edge in its takedown of Flash, as the Apple CEO methodically laid out the practical and technical reasons behind eschewing Adobe’s technology. Adobe’s letter, meanwhile, seems to largely summon vague platitudes and ideals without offering a cogent response to Jobs’s concerns, and then makes an end run to try and transform the debate into a question of who controls the Web.

Even Adobe’s innovation argument rings a bit hollow, smacking of a playground “he won’t let me use his toys!” argument. After all, Apple has successfully innovated an extraordinarily popular device—they’ve just done it without using any of Adobe’s technology. There’s a lot of semantic wrangling in Adobe’s letter of precisely what it means to be “open.”

Of course, the public at large isn’t necessarily invested in these arguments of open and closed platforms; they just want Web videos, games, and Websites that work on their iPhone and iPad. But so far, lack of Flash support doesn’t appear to have put a dent in Apple’s iPhone sales and that seems unlikely to change as a result of this war of words.

The question now is one of time. Flash is extremely popular at the present, but it’s slowly finding itself in competition from the likes of HTML5. Can Adobe continue to innovate and keep Flash relevant as the battleground shifts to a mobile marketplace that hasn’t yet adopted its technology? Or has the beginning of Flash’s slow demise already begun?

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