November 3, 2004 4:00 AM PST

Adobe dipping toes into desktop Linux waters

Adobe Systems, maker of major desktop software products such as Photoshop and Acrobat Reader, has begun a quiet effort to become more involved with desktop Linux.

Adobe has largely been on the sidelines of efforts to boost Linux for desktop computers, the vast majority of which run Microsoft Windows. The software maker is now taking a more active role by joining a prominent Linux consortium, working to improve Linux and planning to lead its own open-source development projects, CNET has learned.

Two job postings reveal some of the company's intentions. Adobe wants to hire a director of Linux market development to "identify and evaluate strategies for Adobe in the Linux and open-source desktop market" and to identify projects that "will help improve Linux as a desktop environment." The employee also will "develop strong business relationships with leading Linux distributors and partners."


What's new:
Adobe has joined a prominent Linux consortium and is launching efforts to improve the operating system.

Bottom line:
Adobe isn't committing to bring its graphics software to Linux, but the company's more direct involvement reflects the growing significance of the operating system for desktop computers.

More stories on desktop Linux

In addition, Adobe seeks a senior computer scientist who will "become maintainer and/or architect for one or more Adobe-sponsored open-source projects." Hosting open-source projects has become a rite of passage for companies--IBM, Sun Microsystems and even Microsoft--hoping to sample and perhaps take advantage of the collaborative programming philosophy.

Adobe has joined the Open Source Development Labs, the industry consortium that employs Linux founder and leader Linus Torvalds. Adobe is active in OSDL's desktop Linux working group, according to a source familiar with Adobe's efforts.

The San Jose, Calif., company confirmed its OSDL membership but wouldn't comment on most of its Linux desktop software plans. However, Pam Deziel, an Adobe director of product marketing, did say the company doesn't think there are enough customers today to justify selling Linux versions of its flagship Photoshop or Illustrator graphics programs.

"From a technical maturity perspective, the (Linux) platform is robust," Deziel said. "From a business perspective, the platform has probably not achieved a scale that is aligned with most of Adobe's markets."

Although Linux has caught on for some workstation applications such as programming or processor design, Jupiter analyst Michael Gartenberg doesn't see Linux as a good idea for graphics software sellers today.

"I would see it being very difficult to sell those applications. At the low-end side, there are simply too many free apps with similar functionality, and at the high-end side, the market is very small," Gartenberg said. "People willing to pay $500 to $800 for an application usually have no problem running Mac OS or Windows."

In one more limited area, Deziel said, customers are interested, though: an updated Linux version of Acrobat Reader, which is used to view Portable Document Format (PDF) files. "We would like the version of the Linux reader to be updated from 5.0, and we're working on that," she said. Adobe offers version 6.0.1 for Windows users today.

Linux rising
There is growing activity in the desktop Linux market. Hewlett-Packard, the No. 2 PC seller, shipped about 200,000 PCs loaded with Linux in its most recent quarter, a rate that's double what it sold a year earlier, said Jeffrey Wade, HP's manager of worldwide Linux marketing.

"The success on the server side has been so great that these customers are looking for opportunities on the desktop as well," Wade said. HP predicts that desktop Linux will outship Mac OS in 2004, though it won't come anywhere near Window's market share of more than 90 percent, he added.

Red Hat, the top seller of Linux, has chiefly focused on selling the operating system for use on powerful networked computers called servers. However, with growing interest in alternatives to Windows for PCs, the company this year launched Red Hat Desktop.

No. 2 Linux seller Novell views desktop versions of its SuSE Linux software as a means of gaining an edge over Red Hat. This month, the company is expected to begin selling Sundance, a version that merges SuSE Linux features with software from Ximian, another Linux software company the Waltham, Mass., company acquired.

And buying trends are changing. Previously, most desktop Linux interest was in Asia, but new growth is cropping up in the West. About 35 percent of HP's desktop Linux shipments go to Europe and 15 percent to North America, Wade said.

Dell, the top PC seller, is less eager about the desktop Linux market. Among Dell customers, interest on desktop Linux is "very limited, but we are getting some questions on that," said Steve Felice, vice president of Dell America's corporate business group.

But there are barriers to people interested in making the switch: Software, training and support are expensive, Felice said. "For companies with tens of thousands of employees, migrating them all is a costly exercise," he said.

Adobe has products that run on servers, such as its LiveCycle document management applications that are available for Linux. But Adobe is noting the fact that the operating system is spreading more broadly to smart phones and other devices.

"Linux is an interesting and emerging platform in a number of form factors, from servers to mobile devices," Deziel said.


Join the conversation!
Add your comment
PhotoShop already runs under WINE... what have they got to lose by porting it properly?

ISTR Macromedia promising us DreamWeaver and a proper Director port. I guess _they_ see the writing on the wall.
Posted by (20 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Adobe and Linux
The Adobe folks say they aren't thinking about porting their flagship software to Linux because there doesn't seem to be a customer base that's large enough yet...? Ack!

Why can't they see that there might be a lot of people WAITING for Adobe's programs to have Linux versions so they CAN dump Windows. I do illustration work and my job demands that I use Illustrator to do the art. I can get P-Shop 7 to work in WINE, but not Illustrator. I'd be so happy if Illustrator worked in my SuSE machine!

Don't talk Gimp to me. I've ripped my hair out with the Gimp several times. It's ok, but it doesn't get my work done by deadline.

I don't use or care about MSOffice, or Outlook or IE or anything else MS makes, except Windows - so I can work, and I'd dump it so fast it wouldn't even have time to blue screen, if I could only have my SuSE and Illustrator too.

Adobe! Ask your customers for Pete's sake!!
Posted by (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
What you can do about it is ...
Write to Adobe that you would like to buy the Linux version, if available.

The recent mass emails to ATI did surprisingly well in persuading ATI to update its graphics drivers for Linux.

A forum such as this highlights your plight to fellow Linux users but IMHO does precious little to get the word to the companies such as Adobe.
Posted by (2 comments )
Link Flag
I understand your frustration with Gimp

What happens is that people have way too much
experience with Photoshop, so Gimp will feel

I found however that the more time you give to it
- obviously - the better you become and the
faster too.

Suddenly when you go back to Photoshop -
something things which are missing there - might
make you frustrated.

Save advanced CYMK operations; most things (if
not everything) that can be accomplish with
Photoshop can be accomplished with Gimp - but not
necessarily vice-versa.

I was hoping Corel Draw - my love/hate program of
choice - also to be ported to Linux.

I was even thinking of buying a Mac as I really
can't stand Windows. But given that Corel pulled
out from Mac since version 11 (and that got very
bad Mac reviews) - I am just dreaming the day
someone can make an excellent SVG Application for
Linux to match Corel Draw and Illustrator.

What Adobe and others don't understand is that
contrary to belief - Linux users *do* purchase
proprietory software - *if* they are good.

You can't put an dog-ugly old-motif app (with non
anti-aliased GUI) - and then complain that people
were NOT interested. Who would buy Maya /
Mathematica / Wordperfect for Linux when the
Windows equivalent is so much better looking?

Even Acrobat Reader for Linux is down-right
damn-ugly compare with the KDE / Gnome PDF

Software companies are madly arrogant into
thinking that Linux programming doesn't require a
lot of prior experience.

Anyway instead of me waiting for a clumsy version
of Photoshop for Linux - I will just wait for
Gimp get better and better.
Posted by (1 comment )
Link Flag
This can only be a good thing.
Major software companies putting out linux versions of popular programs can only help the computer world. Don't stop there, make mac versions as well.

A well written, well documented
and modularized program will significantly reduce cost and port time. That means no .net, no MFC, no activeX, no directX, ect; also reduce any system calls and use of other windows only classes as much as possible, and where not possible, make that extremely modular, so changes those to linux or mac won't affect the rest of the program. Your software will also get the free bonus of being inherently more secure if there is as little windows only garbage in your program. Of course that increases the initial development time and cost, but you more then make up for that while updating and porting your app.

Most people do not want windows, but are forced to because the software they use is windows only.

I think this sort of progress will be what crushes the stifling monopoly of MS. The only people who will not benefit from that are MS employees and people who don't use computers. The other 99% of the world will gain tremendously from that. More choices, more security, more options.
Posted by (242 comments )
Reply Link Flag
No Thanks, Adobe
I may be in a minority, and I don't know how the PC world fares.
But in the Mac world, it have been my experience that Adobe
screws up every program they buy (eg., Aldus SuperPaint and
PageMaker) and bloats out every program they supposedly
develop. I don't need howitzers when I go mouse hunting, but
Adobe doesn't offer any choices.

And Adobe's ideas of upgrades demonstrate terminal stupidity.
PageMaker is a nice simple little program and InDesign is a
walking disaster.

I've already trashed Acriobat, InDesign, and the others in the CS
series. Photoshop 7 and Illustrator 10 are history as soon as I
test out a couple of replacement programs. PageMaker 6.5 may
stay for a while. I finally got it running again on OS91. G3.
Posted by Earl Benser (4310 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Do you know how long I have been waiting?
Do you know how long I have been waiting for Photoshop and Dreamweaver to go Linux?

If PS, DW and FW go Linux, I'll go Linux forever and never look back...

Just so you know, because of me, thousands of clients buy the Adobe suite, I'd say out of that bunch 60% would switch to Linux right now.

Everyone I talk to that is respectable in the web world, says if Adobe would go Linux, we'd go Linux.

Adobe is truly in the driver's seat, can't do biz with out them...
Posted by no1uknowtcb (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag

Join the conversation

Add your comment

The posting of advertisements, profanity, or personal attacks is prohibited. Click here to review our Terms of Use.

What's Hot



RSS Feeds

Add headlines from CNET News to your homepage or feedreader.