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Adobe Pricey Love Note to Apple

If you want to know the true extent of Adobe's underdog status in its ongoing war of words with Apple over Flash, consider today's strange "love letter" appearing in national and regional dailies all over the country.

Adobe's "We Love Apple" ad in The New York Times
Oliver Quillia for CNBC.com
Adobe's "We Love Apple" ad in The New York Times

The "We Love Apple" missive follows a blistering attack from Steve Jobs himself in a personal, and lengthy post from the Apple CEO on the Apple company Web site a few weeks ago.

Jobs' note and all its contents got enormous coverage.

Jobs speaks, and he instantly commands a global audience. Adobe had to pay big, big bucks simply to answer back.

Apple and Jobs, a company and CEO that people clamor to hear from; Adobe is a company that has to spend big money hoping to be heard.

It's an important difference between these two because it shows the power shift.

I'm not saying that's good or bad, but Adobe needs to recognize that Apple is asserting its newly minted status as a mobile powerhouse. Adobe's Flash is on 98 percent of the world's computers. But Apple, between iPhone, iPod and now iPad, is leading a mobile charge and enjoying breakneck momentum. I'd make the argument that as the markets shift, and other video standards on the web become more prevalent, and consumers start to enjoy real choice, Adobe needs Apple a lot more than the other way around.

Adobe is walking with the swagger of a high school quarterback. But if it's not careful, it'll become that obnoxious high school quarterback walking around his 25th reunion with the same swagger, but just tragically out of date.

I have detailed the issues between Adobe and Apple in previous posts. Jobs has deep concerns with Flash's stability and security and doesn't want to risk its platform on what he thinks is sub-standard software unable to keep up with the changing needs of the mobile video consumer. Adobe argues today: "We Love Apple... What we don't love is anybody taking away your freedom to choose what you create, how you create it and what you experience on the web."

Adobe has a compelling argument until you realize that Apple's staunch rival Microsoft essentially agrees with its position. Microsoft agrees that Adobe is still very important to the consumer, but also has some key issues that need to be addressed. That certainly hurts Adobe's position.

The ads today are nice for Adobe, its employees, its key customers, because they show the company is fighting back. I'd argue that a more compelling strategy might be to release a true, stable, and deeply secure version of Flash, and prove in the marketplace what Adobe is trying to claim in the media.

Answer the critics with a better mousetrap. In fact, Steve Jobs will probably tell you that it's a strategy that's worked pretty well for his little shop.

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