CS5: Will Adobe Go Nuclear in Its War With Apple?

Last Updated Apr 12, 2010 11:23 AM EDT

As I mentioned in another post today, the Apple (AAPL) war on Adobe (ADBE) is one that threatens iPhone and iPad developers, as well as shows the fundamental rift between Apple and its traditional customers, media creative professionals. I suggested that Adobe has a stronger hold on that group than Apple, because Macs are machines they like, but such programs as Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign are packages they can't easily work without. The new Creative Suite 5 -- CS5 -- versions of Adobe's applications will leave creatives even more dependent on the applications.

I haven't had hands-on with the new CS5. (Actually, my own copy of Photoshop is multiple versions old.) But from everything I see and read about hands-on experience, this is a killer edition. The context aware deletion feature is enough in my opinion to make it a must have for people who have to retouch photos, which means virtually everyone in photography and publishing. Two of my long-time colleagues, Sally Wiener Grotta and Daniel Grotta, disagree that upgrading is a trivial decision if you own Photoshop CS4 in their review of a beta version, but any earlier version? Absolutely.

In a blog post they did on the overall suite , what came up in their experience of one product component after another was the word "easier." When you work professional in any of the media creative media, easier means faster, which equally means "shorten your too-long work day" and "make more money." That is why I think all the CS5 versions of Adobe's products -- which are typically the market leaders -- will become expected upgrades. Why spend hundreds of hours a year doing things that a multi-hundred-dollar upgrade can cut by half or more?

Media producers need Adobe and the advanced versions of their tools out of professional self-preservation. That's why the new CS5 suite is a weapon in the company's hands. Adobe's nuclear option is to pull any of the products from the Mac and make them only available on Windows. Mind you, it would be torture to most of the media people. Some, like me, are happy using either Windows or Mac, so long as the software works, but I think we're in the minority.

Apple has saved Adobe a lot of trouble by already making itself look like the bad guy. In addition, many media people need to use Flash for web site work. Talk about HTML 5 all day if you want, but Flash isn't something that you can easily or quickly dislodge.

I suspect that eventually Adobe will have to set off the bomb and pull its products from the Mac. Apple's future is in mobile and, as Jobs has essentially admitted, the company wants to lock in mobile developers to the iPhone and iPad and lock out other options, including a meta-platform like Flash that would let them be less beholding to Apple than they currently are.

But I don't think Apple will much care, because it has been changing focus for some years from its traditional core audience to a broader consumer base. In the end, Apple will decide that it can live without the Mac, focusing on various versions of iPhone for all platforms, and media types will find that they won't have a choice about forgoing their computer of choice.

Photo courtesy of National Nuclear Security Administration / Nevada Site Office

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    Erik Sherman is a widely published writer and editor who also does select ghosting and corporate work. The views expressed in this column belong to Sherman and do not represent the views of CBS Interactive. Follow him on Twitter at @ErikSherman or on Facebook.