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Let’s hope they have an excellent change management team at Adobe. This month they have slashed 750 full-time positions, killed the mobile version of Adobe Flash Player, acquired an Internet video advertising company and changed strategic direction to focus on digital media and marketing, and it’s just the middle of the month. Now, they’ve decided to donate the Adobe Flex Software Development Kit (SDK) and BlazeDS to the Apache Software Foundation.

Flash, Flex and Firing

Adobe’s announcement of their plans to donate:

  • Flex SDK -- a framework used to create Flash applications
  • BlazeDS, -- a component used to push data in real-time to Flex and AIR applications
  • Several more minor development components like Falcon, an ActionScript and MXML compiler

to Apache is the latest in a string of major announcements this November.

Earlier in the month, the company announced it was eliminating 750 full-time positions primarily in North America and Europe as part of its efforts to better focus on Digital Media and Marketing. Adobe’s President and CEO, Shantanu Narayen stated,

Our mission is to produce the world's content and maximize the impact of that content. Adobe is doubling down in the Digital Media and Digital Marketing categories, markets rich with opportunities for innovation and growth.”

This isn’t just a Wall Street focused sound bite. It’s a complete change in corporate direction, which will drive many technology changes. Adobe has made it clear it believes HTML5 is the future. Although the company also indicated that Flex currently has clear benefits, the message is clear -- this is the beginning of an orchestrated exit strategy.

Adobe is trying to comfort the masses who currently use Flex. They selected the well-established and respected Apache Foundation to receive Flex. Adobe will continue to support the Flash Builder development tool. They are pointing out that Flex has actually been open source since 2007.

Flash isn’t dead, but given Microsoft’s similar tip toeing away from Silverlight, it is clear that the boys think HTML5 will ultimately be the browser development strategy of choice. Even if an open Flex ecosystem forms, companies with heavy investments in Flash are wondering who will provide professional support in the long term. Commercial support firms may emerge as they have for other open source projects, but they may not since the sun may be setting on Flex and eventually Flash. Hey, didn’t that guy named Steve mention this once or twice?

Peering Into the Crystal Ball

If you are wondering what the hell is Adobe doing, you aren’t alone. Statements tied to financials indicate that this is the beginning of Adobe’s transition to a more modern media company with products that are more profitable than a flash player that must be customized for every mobile device. Adobe should be very, very careful. It may have a high tolerance for rapid change, but many of its customers do not. I’m sure the market will show us shortly if it has the stomach to absorb Adobe’s fast moves.