Disruptive Technology: Keep an eye on Linux plus Air, et. Al.
I attended the Adobe Engage conference this week in San Francisco and got a good look at the latest from Adobe. In his opening remarks the CEO of Adobe Shantanu Narayen described broad tends in the software industry that I agree with completely. First, in the Internet connected world web applications that leverage user created content are ruling the day. Call it Web 2.0 or whatever you like, but the value of applications these days are in their connectivity to other users and not their isolation on a desktop. Second, is the explosion of devices and new forms of accessing the Internet. Phones, mobile Internet devices, connected appliances, and more are defining a new computing experience. Third is the evolution of software business models from that of winner takes all and high margins from proprietary licensing to software as a service and advertising supported applications. Finally is the advent of rich content over the net with an increase in demand for video, audio, and rich user interfaces both for consumers and in the enterprise.
These trends lead to Adobe’s bet on Air as the development platform for the future and have positioned Adobe with its unique set of content development tools in a position to capitalize on these trends. Adobe has produced a set of tools that allow applications to work both on and off line across any platform, whether its Windows, Mac, Linux, a desktop or mobile device. This bridges the net and the desktop in an effective way and allows a software experience to span across devices.
How does this relate to Linux? Because platforms like Adobe’s Air or Google’s Widgets, or Eclipse’s Rich Client Platform on top of Linux can be disruptive forces in the world of computing. My favorite comment at the Engage event was in response to a journalist question about why Adobe chose Linux as a platform to support with Air. The response from Kevin Lynch, Adobe’s CTO was “because as a free platform like Air combined with a free platform like Linux has the potential to be disruptive.” Applications developed in new frameworks like Air allow an application not only to cross operating system boundaries, but device boundaries as well. Air applications can find themselves on smart phones or mobile tablets – all of which are adopting Linux as their underlying OS because of its low cost, flexibility, and edge in getting products to the market fast. A good example of this is the Chumby which is built on Flash light plus Linux. Finally, because applications built on these new frameworks are device and OS agnostic it eliminates the edge that Windows has had for so long in terms of greater application availablilty over Linux.
Will Linux and frameworks like Air make an alternative to the Windows desktop viable? I am betting on it. By the way, so is Microsoft with their competing Silverlight platform on Windows. Watch this space – it is going to get really interesting.