Adobe CEO Bruce Chizen spoke at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco and IDG News Service had a chance to interview him before his appearance at the event. In this edited version of the conversation, Chizen spoke about Adobe’s strategy for hosted software, its baby steps in the online advertising business and its AIR technology for building desktop-based rich Internet applications.
Chizen: To me, Web 2.0 is the realization of everything we talked about in the Web 1.0 era: the ability to take advantage of Web services, to have rich Internet applications, to have socialization and collaboration, to have hosted applications. These things were talked about but hard to do. Web 2.0 is the execution of that, and Adobe is the enabler of a lot of that experience.
Most of the images on the Web have probably been touched by Photoshop. Most of the video is probably edited or enhanced with Premiere. Most of the animation and video playback is Flash. A lot of the rich Internet applications are being built with our Flex framework, taking advantage of Flash. The graphics [involve] Illustrator, and on and on.
IDGNS: Do you currently generate any revenue from online ads?
Chizen: A very tiny amount today via a hosted application called Premiere Express. It lets consumers do simple video editing. We offer it through partners like Photobucket [and MTV]. Some of those business models are advertising-based. We’ll continue to experiment.
Our Adobe Media Player [now in beta] is also an ad-based business model. We enable broadcasters and content providers to make money on their content through a very clever advertising user interface. We’re also working on a Photoshop Express, which will let consumers do image editing. It’ll be either ad-based or subscription-based.
IDGNS: Do you offer any of your packaged software products in full-featured but hosted versions?
Chizen: No, we don’t.
IDGNS: Will there come a time when your full-featured products will be offered as a hosted, software-as-a-service (SaaS) model?
Chizen: Yes, but over time. To benefit from a full-featured version of Photoshop, the experience as a hosted application wouldn’t be very good, and that’s because of bandwidth speeds. The capability of broadband doesn’t equate to what you can get from your local computer.
You’ll see us do hybrid applications that take advantage of the desktop, but where appropriate we’ll provide hosted functionality for things like sharing. Our Kuler [web-hosted application] lets people collaborate using different color settings, [and works in conjunction with] producs like Illustrator, which resides on the desktop.
That’s going to happen over the next number of years: We’ll have these hybrid environments for full-featured applications. As broadband gets greater and greater, there’s the possibility of taking the desktop app and moving it to the host. Five years is probably the minimum.
But the capability of the desktop and laptop is advancing so quickly … and broadband capability isn’t increasing that rapidly. Even if it increased that rapidly, people are throwing more data into the pipes, which will slow down the delivery of the information.
IDGNS: So you’re seeing interest from users in hosted software that simplifies workgroup collaboration?
Chizen: For more casual users, we’ll have hosted services. We announced a service recently called Share [in beta version], which lets you extend what Acrobat does or what the Adobe Reader does — document sharing, PDF creation, word processing — which will all be hosted, but you’re still going to want to do a lot of things on your desktop.
IDGNS: Do you agree the future of software delivery is that SaaS/hosted model?
Chizen: Eventually. The key is how long does that take. It depends on the application and on broadband capabilities. I’m smart enough to say that will be in 20 years probably.
[Chizen later said during his presentation at the conference that he foresaw the Adobe software delivery model changing from packaged applications to SaaS about 10 years from now.]