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How Will the Apple Tablet Affect Adobe Flash?

 Today news came out that Apple is already working on an Apple SDK simulator for the tablet, which will most likely be announced on January 27. While the Apple Tablet has major implications for bringing change to digital publishing and distribution, it also has a major effect on companies which make software for digital publishing and distribution. 

No company will be more affected than Adobe whose applications and suites are now the leading tools for digital publishing and distribution. Ever since Steve Jobs came back to Apple, and especially since the launch of the iPhone, the relationship has become more strained.

It first started with Apple's launch of Final Cut Pro for video editing, which cut into sales of After Effects on the Mac platform. Now, Adobe dedicates minimal resources to After Effects for the Mac, and it has become a largely Windows application. 

When the iPhone launched in 2007, support for Flash was noticeably missing, and many Flash developers boisterously protested the lack of support for their favorite application, causing further embarrassment for Adobe's relations with Apple. As the iPhone caught on as a platform, more developers have moved over to Xcode, the free application development environment which comes bundled for free with each Mac sold. For every developer who moves over to developing for the iPhone, that means less likelihood that Adobe will sell its Production Suite. 

It would be bad enough news for Adobe on the Macintosh platform if their pressure came only from Apple and Steve Jobs, but the fact is that they are also under pressure from open-source development tools such as Ruby on Rails and Drupal, which are all available as free downloads from the Internet. Starting as development tools, they now are building out designer tool offerings, all available for free. Moreover, the new generation of web designers are now learning web development without going through and using Adobe's production tools, which are the leading revenue earner for the company.

And then of course, there is Google, whose long-term strategy is to offer every desktop application for free, in the browser, paid for by text ads. 

Put it all together, and Adobe is going to be in for a tough fight over the next few years. Most likely, the company will become more reliant on the Windows platform for sales. The problem is that as Apple opens up new vertical markets and applications, it will win over new converts to the Mac platform, first with the iPhone, then with the Tablet.

Will it make Adobe an acquisition target for Microsoft? Time will tell.

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