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CRN Interview: Bruce Chizen, Adobe Systems

In its 20th year, Adobe Systems is out to reinvent itself once again. After first selling software to printer manufacturers and then rising to fame as a provider of applications to end users, Adobe now has its sights set on corporate enterprise customers. In recent weeks, the company has launched a series of server products that automate the ad hoc workflow process around a digital document. down the road, Adobe plans to expand its product base.

In its 20th year, Adobe Systems is out to reinvent itself once again. After first selling software to printer manufacturers and then rising to fame as a provider of applications to end users, Adobe now has its sights set on corporate enterprise customers. In recent weeks, the company has launched a series of server products that automate the ad hoc workflow process around a digital document. down the road, Adobe plans to expand its product base.

Adobe President and CEO Bruce Chizen recently spoke with CRN Editor in Chief Michael Vizard about the major opportunities he sees for expanding THE company's markets and hints at an emerging channel strategy.

CRN: What drives Adobe's product development strategy?

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'We have a new Document Server for Acrobat Reader Extensions. The way it works is that you design the form and run it on the server. When you download

the form, it automatically turns on all the extensions in Acrobat Reader. '

Chizen: We want to make sure that our products work better together so there truly is an advantage in having more than one Adobe product. The thing about our customers is that they tend to work in small virtual workgroups with a maximum of 25 people in a group. We think we can take advantage of the Web to let them share their assets more seamlessly. That doesn't mean we want to compete with Documentum or have a focus on content management. It's about the needs of individuals that need to collaborate in a very ad hoc way.

CRN: What other areas are getting your attention?

Chizen: The other thing that we are focused on is digital photography and digital video. The whole shift to digital hasn't happened yet, but it will. This represents several opportunities. One is the fact that people will have thousands of photographs on a computer, so we could probably get them a piece of software to manage that. The next thing you can begin to think about is Adobe Acrobat Reader as a digital container, and a third opportunity is digital editing.

CRN: What kind of competitive threat does Microsoft pose to Adobe?

Chizen: They are not very good at trying to be us. As long as we focus on selling software to people that care about the quality of their communications, we will do very well. If you think about document workflow, it's not a Microsoft-only world. We need to play with ERP vendors and the other operating-system guys. It just so happens, most of those companies see Microsoft as an enemy and Adobe as an ally.

CRN: What is Adobe doing with emerging technologies such as XML?

Chizen: In Acrobat 5, we've done a pretty good job of dealing with XML. We're not all the way there yet. In the next version, we'll be pretty close in terms of taking any XML-tagged data, keeping track of it in the container and then extracting it.

CRN: As the digital container and XML evolve, will this make people less dependent on the desktop applications that hold the data?

Chizen: All I do is give you a container, and the container is free. Someday if you want to change the application, you can change.

CRN: Where could channel partners play a role in your strategy?

Chizen: We acquired [earlier this year a small company in Canada called JetForms, and they have some relationships with the big guys in systems integration. In terms of the typical [systems integrator or VAR, the strategy is not baked yet.

CRN: What should people expect to see from Adobe in the space around electronic forms?

Chizen: We have a new Document Server for Acrobat Reader Extensions. The way it works is that you design the form and run it on the server. When you download the form, it automatically turns on all the extensions in Acrobat Reader. In the future, we'll take advantage of more structured integration around the documents. We'll allow you to easily organize all the comments and notes around a set of documents. We're really focused on the business process management around a set of documents.

CRN: What's your take on [Adobe's traditional competitors such as Quark, Macromedia and Corel?

Chizen: It's irrelevant. With Quark, we're well on our way to winning that battle. That doesn't mean it won't take two, three or four years to do that. But we're a better company,we have better products, and we're a better company to do business with. Macromedia is one-quarter our size, and they don't have the R and D budget we do. Same story goes for Corel.

CRN: So what should partners remember most about Adobe?

Chizen: If you look at us from 20,000 feet, it's always been about making stuff look better on the screen. But now, we are transforming the company into the enterprise. The biggest challenge we have is our ability to market and sell into the enterprise.

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