Why Taking The High Road Against Apple Is The Right Move For Adobe

Adobe is trying to put a cheery, tactful face on an otherwise nasty dispute with Apple, and it's the right strategy for Adobe.

Sure, it'd be easy to fire back against Steve Jobs and company for so publicly disparaging Adobe and Flash, but Adobe's taking of the high road -- through a new advertising campaign that actually praises Apple and its iPhone and iPad while stating a position on openness -- is a strong tactical maneuver.

The advertising campaign, unveiled this week, includes professed Adobe love for Apple, as well as praise for Flash, HTML and plenty of other devices. What Adobe doesn't love, it says, "is anybody taking away your freedom to choose what you create, how you create it, and what you experience on the Web."

It's warm, sure, but Adobe is, in fact, striking at a familiar Apple lightning rod: the idea Apple CEO Jobs and his executives comport themselves with arrogance, that they insist on controlling every inch of the Apple experience, iPhone or otherwise, and they're unwilling to do anything more than denigrate those companies who don't fall in line with their wants and desires.

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Adobe's deceptively sweet message is, in fact, stoking every now-classic Apple criticism there is, as well as giving Adobe the means to say it has done it's part not to advance yet another high-profile IT industry feud. And along with that advertising, Adobe's executives have kept their own public comments similar in tone.

Adobe co-founders Chuck Geschke and John Warnock also published an open letter in a number of news outlets this week, stating that openness has been key to Adobe's growth. Apple, however, is taking "the opposite approach," they said, and "that could undermine the next chapter of the web." Elsewhere, Adobe has also put up a page on its Web site entitled "The Truth About Flash" with a number of factoids and a narrative that starts with "setting the record straight."

Geschke further attempted to neutralize the Adobe-Apple intensity in an interview Thursday with The Wall Street Journal.

Specifically, Geschke says that Flash is indeed important to Adobe but shouldn't be considered a make-or-break for Adobe's future. Geschke also references Jobs' attempt to buy Adobe in the early 80s, and how Apple ended up buying a 19 percent stake in Adobe to get at PostScript for making printers.

Geschke further said that the next version of Flash will be available soon, and promised a Flash that is "dramatically faster and more stable."

NEXT: More Adobe Messaging

Later on Thursday, Adobe's John Nack, principal product manager for photoshop, took things another step with a post to his blog.

"I love making great Mac software, and after eight years product-managing Photoshop, I've been asked to help lead the development of new Adobe applications, written from scratch for tablet computers," Nack writes. "In many ways, the iPad is the computer I've been waiting for my whole life. I want to build the most amazing iPad imaging apps the world has ever seen."

Nack also proclaims Apple love, but doesn't miss out on taking a few careful swipes at Apple over how Apple manages its product distribution.

Adobe's made a number of key moves here, all in a short period: It has struck a gentler tone through which it'll get credit for taking the high road against Apple's denigration, it has professed openness and marketed that openness for driving future growth without too fiercely disparaging competitive products and platforms, and it's reminded observers that Flash is still growing, while touting such statistics as Adobe's claim that 75 percent of all video on the Web is viewed through its Flash player.

Gone, it seems, is the anger from Adobe, and public hit-backs like when Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen, in an April discussion with the Journal, suggested that Apple's Flash criticism is a "smoke screen" that "has nothing to do with technology."

No, Adobe's spent more time this week promoting a different. This is no "go screw yourself" or the threat of an Adobe lawsuit.

It's a good strategy, in many ways as forceful as Apple's.