Adobe Introduces Windows Killer

Today Adobe is announcing the official release of Adobe AIR and Flex 3. While these announcements are not really news in that the products have been in beta, and usable for a year, today seems a good point in time to mark the official end of the Windows era.

With AIR and Flex, What Adobe is doing is building a platform to replace all operating systems as a development target, and the implications of this are profound.

For most applications it does not make sense to write directly to the OS any more. This movement has been underway for years as application developers have been increasingly writing applications for web browsers instead of for specific PC operating systems. But web applications have had two problems. First they just looked crappy compared to desktop apps. And second, they did not have access to the file system and other local resources that a standard application has.

Adobe’s Flex is a developer tool that is built on top of it’s ubiquitous Flash Player. Flex makes building sophisticated web applications, also called Rich Internet Applications (RIAs), much easier than writing apps to the Windows API. Flex apps are slicker than standard Windows apps, and seamlessly integrate with the web. At the same time, HTML/Javascript apps are starting to look very good. While Flex is more powerful that HTML/Javascript, for many apps HTML/Javascript is quite good enough.

Adobe AIR is a tool that allows developers to build Flex applications or HTML/Javascript applications that work on the desktop but have access to the Internet and can synchronize between the web and the desktop when offline.

What is strategically significant about these tools is that they give millions of web developers the ability to do almost everything a hardcore Windows or Mac developer can do in a way that is totally cross platform (Windows/Mac/Linux and maybe mobile someday). A typical web developer today has no idea how to build desktop apps, so this technology is a game changer for that audience.

At the same time, if you are writing with Flex and AIR or HTML/Javascript and AIR you are not writing to Windows, or for that matter Mac OS X. The strategic import of this cannot be understated. Having MS-DOS and then Windows as the world’s most important software development platform has been Microsoft’s single most significant advantage in its history as a software company. That advantage is gone.

Adobe’s strategy is a death stroke to Windows as a strategic monopolistic platform. And Adobe as a software company with revenues north of three billion dollars has the muscle, the development community, and the momentum to fight this battle. They will not be “Netscaped.”

Windows will be a money maker for years to come as a tool that end users care about. And to be sure, there is still significant strategic value to the platform. But as a “must have” because people need to run Windows compatible apps, as of today we can say that rationale is officially dead.

RIP Windows 2008.