Adobe meets Apple in a muddy business

This week Apple made the surprise announcement that it was hiring its long running enemy Adobe CTO Kevin Lynch as vice president of technology.

Industry watchers who have been following Cupertino’s antics to kill off Flash on the internet were surprised.

Former Apple CEO Steve Jobs was public in his condemnation of Flash as a tool for rich-content playback and blamed it for breaking his beloved iPhone. In April 2010, he posted on Apple’s website that Flash was flawed with regard to battery life, security, reliability and performance.

Jobs wrote that he had routinely asked Adobe to show him Flash performing well on a mobile device, any mobile device, but the company couldn’t manage it.

Much of Adobe’s public relations pushback to Apple’s criticism came from Lynch. It was his idea to have a corporate video shot for an Adobe developer conference in 2009 where he ran over an iPhone over with a steamroller. Until 2010 he was going on record saying that Flash was superior to HTML5.

This has made some Apple fanboys question his appointment. Just like Christians ask themselves WWJD?, so does the new Apple enclave, but there’s a difference in the J.

Lynch is something that the new batch of Apple fanboys are not. He actually was one of those who put up with the early Macs. He developed software for General Magic, an internal project at Apple. This means that he knows where the bodies are buried deep inside Apple’s operating system: he worked with Macs in the days when they still caught fire.

Lynch is also up to speed on mobile devices and cloud subscriptions, two areas of focus for Adobe over the past few years and areas that that Apple wants to be made king. Adobe did really well at getting its products into the cloud and putting in place the elements of a subscription model. In fact, if it had not done so, its results would have been worryingly bad. Adobe has some evidence to prove it managed to survive a crippling recession based on its subscription model.

Apple wants to get onto the cloud and not just to deal with its load from iCloud, iTunes and other services. It has not been enormously successful so far. Its MobileMe products fell short of expectations and Lynch is just the person to spruce them up. He might also be helping Apple develop a subscription model which works and takes Apple away from the dependence on its partners.

Clearly, the steamroller has been consigned to the past in the interests of such expediency.

Whether Lynch himself can stomach working for the same fruity zealots who forced him to come up with such campaigns remains to be seen. It is a little difficult to come back from complaining about a company – and then asking to work for them to lower the standards of the world.