Why did Apple hire Adobe CTO Kevin Lynch?

Posted:
in General Discussion edited March 2015
Just hours after word leaked that Apple had poached Adobe's chief technology officer, the Internet is ablaze with the question of what, exactly, the iPhone maker plans to do with Kevin Lynch.


Kevin Lynch


Source: Adobe

No Flash in the pan

Lynch is particularly interesting as an executive choice for Apple because of his close association with Adobe Flash, a product he infamously clashed with Apple over, beginning in 2010.

Tensions between the two companies grew, particularly after the iPad appeared without any support for it, followed by a devastating essay written by Steve Jobs that attacked Flash from multiple angles, including its performance, impact on battery life, its faulty security record, its degree of openness as a technology, and even its core value to the web, given the large library of iOS apps and superior alternatives to delivering video and animations on the web that existed by then.

Lynch staunchly defended Flash, accusing Apple of promoting a philosophy "counter" to the web and one that would require developers to target multiple platforms, rather than writing to a common 'run anywhere' platform like Flash.

He touted the partnerships Adobe had lined up, stating at the time that "all the innovation coming from all those companies will dwarf what's coming from the one company that isn't participating."

Instead, Apple's iOS juggernaut did the dwarfing, obliterating the market for Flash so rapidly that even Adobe's close ally Google abandoned support for the middleware on Android just two years after promoting Flash Player as a major differentiating feature of its new devices.

Is Lynch a bozo for supporting Flash?

Apple's ability, less than three years later, to woo Lynch away from Adobe speaks volumes about the resiliency of both parties. It's not yet obvious what Lynch will be doing at Apple however. As columnist John Gruber recently tweeted to former Apple executive Jean-Louis Gass?e, "What?s your theory? I?m at a loss, honestly. Makes no sense to me."

Gruber has subsequently written a piece referring to Apple's new VP of Technology as "a Bozo, a Bad Hire," citing Lynch's comments in support of Flash while working for Adobe and tasked with marketing Flash.

However, Flash isn't the only project Lynch has worked on. He has roots in developing software titles for the Macintosh back to his college years, and his bio (still hosted by Adobe) cites early work in the mid 90s developing user interface elements at General Magic, a portable computing company Apple spun off in 1990 to focus its efforts on the Newton Message Pad.

Lynch also "designed the user interface and developed the first Macintosh release" of Frame's FrameMaker publication layout software (later acquired by Adobe) as well as Macromedia's Dreamweaver, one of the original graphical desktop web development tools (which was also acquired by Adobe). At Macromedia, Lynch served as "chief software architect and president of product development."

How Flash threatened, and indirectly helped save, Apple

Additionally, Lynch isn't the only Apple executive to have promoted Flash in a former life. Apple's current senior vice president of worldwide marketing Phil Schiller was formerly Macromedia's VP of Product Marketing, back when the company bought Flash from its original developer FutureWave in 1996.

The next year, Schiller left Macromedia to join Steve Jobs at Apple. But back at Macromedia, a series of products were vying for the company's attention, ranging from print tools that directly completed with Adobe, to a fledgling new video editor named KeyGrip developed by Adobe's former Premier creator Randy Ubillos, to new web-centric tools like Flash and Dreamweaver.

Graphical History of Apple and Adobe


Macromedia caught a big break when Microsoft agreed to distribute Flash with Internet Explorer 5. That gave Flash a rapidly installed base even as Microsoft worked diligently to thwart the progress of Sun's Java and Netscape's web browser as competing threats to Windows, and as Microsoft worked to derail Apple's QuickTime as the medium for distributing web videos.

Aided by Microsoft, Macromedia's Flash rapidly took over as the web's preferred method for distributing video, animations and interactivity. Because Flash was closed and proprietary to Macromedia, no open community could foster any real threat to Windows via web apps, at least not for nearly another decade.

The growing popularity of Flash led Macromedia to focus on web development tools, inducing it to nearly abandon KeyGrip. Apple, noting the importance of salvaging one of the last major products to be build around QuickTime, stepped in and acquired the project, eventually selling it under the name Final Cut Pro.

The success of Final Cut Pro in helping to sell PowerMacs to a new audience threw Apple an important lifeline. Additionally, in hiring Ubillos, Apple again became a significant software applications developer, churning out titles like iMovie and making new acquisitions that led to the development of Logic Pro, GarageBand and a series of other Pro Apps and iLife and iWork titles.

By 2005, Adobe decided to stop competing against Macromedia and instead simply acquired it, citing Flash as central to the $3.4 billion purchase. It's no surprise why Adobe began staunchly defending its key asset once Apple released its first iPhone two years later without Flash support, and as it subsequently watched iOS grow in stature at the expense of Flash among mobile devices.

Lynch after Flash at Adobe

As all prospects for Flash on mobile devices imploded last year, Lynch's role at Adobe focused on managing the company's Research and Experience Design teams, which have increasingly focused on HTML5 and using Adobe's Flash tools to generate code for native apps on various platforms, including Apple's iOS.

A report by Bloomberg says Lynch "led Adobe?s push to focus more on subscription-based services and wireless devices, introducing Creative Cloud software, which lets designers use mobile applications for creating printed pages and websites from an iPad or other tablets," noting that Adobe reported signing up more than 500,000 Creative Cloud subscribers.


Included Software


Included Creative Cloud software. | Source: Adobe


Apple is certainly interested in expanding its expertise in providing software services, particularly as it builds out data centers tasked with hosting iCloud, App Store and iTunes related services.

Lynch was also credited by Adobe as being "responsible for the company's ubiquitous Portable Document Format (PDF)" as well as managing the "alignment of Adobe's servers and tools with the company's technology platform." Additionally, it said he "oversees Adobe's developer relations program, including the integration of customers and partners in the development process through Adobe Labs and customer advisory councils."

Lots of potential jobs for Lynch at Apple

With the sidelining of Scott Forstall, the lead architect of iOS, Apple certainly has needs for experts in the areas of managing its technology platform and in developer relations. Apple also has a series of Pro Apps and other desktop and mobile software titles that appear starved for "software architects" and product development managers.


Apple Leadership


Apple's new Leadership page. | Source: Apple


Apple's existing executive committee is also currently spread quite thin in a number of other respects, with Eddy Cue tasked with managing the entirely of Apple's online services ranging from iTunes to iCloud to App Stores; Craig Federighi tasked with managing both OS X and iOS; and Jon Ive now handling both the overall design of hardware and software.

Rather than assigning Lynch a specific role that takes over some portion now assigned to one of these executives, Apple has him reporting to Bob Mansfield, who currently leads the new "Technology" group Apple created last fall.

That new group combined the company's wireless teams and included its semiconductor efforts, which has been rapidly growing in stature as Apple has made a series of acquisitions over the last five years, from PA Semi to Intrinsity to AuthenTec and Anobit.

Apple may be interested in seeing where its actual needs are, having just rejiggered its executive team last fall. Over the last several years, the company has experienced some high profile executive churn, having hired IBM's Mark Papermaster to lead its iPod and iPhone division and Dixon's John Browett to run its retail operations.

Both hires turned out to be disastrous, largely due to their incompatibilities with Apple's culture. While Lynch already has a well documented, historical difference with Apple in regard to Flash, his history in developing Macintosh applications and working near Apple in the same Silicon Valley environment are likely to make him a better fit at Apple compared to the very different backgrounds of Papermaster and Browett.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 202
    gazoobeegazoobee Posts: 3,754member
    The whole question is silly. He will be working under Bob Mansfield and Bob Mansfield has already retired once and hen came back when his replacement wasn't the right guy. Whether it's a smart move or a dumb move, it seems pretty clear to me that this guy is Bob's new (possible) replacement or at least second in command.
  • Reply 2 of 202

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Gazoobee View Post



    The whole question is silly. He will be working under Bob Mansfield and Bob Mansfield has already retired once and hen came back when his replacement wasn't the right guy. Whether it's a smart move or a dumb move, it seems pretty clear to me that this guy is Bob's new (possible) replacement or at least second in command.


    Considering that he was aspiring to be CEO of Adobe, I highly doubt he took the position to remain 2nd in command.  I personally think he'll be Bob's new replacement.

  • Reply 3 of 202
    charlitunacharlituna Posts: 7,198member
    The implication is that Apple will put Flash in iOS. Doubt it.

    My guess is that he'll do something like work on the internal systems like POS, online self service etc
  • Reply 4 of 202
    hmmhmm Posts: 3,405member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by charlituna View Post



    The implication is that Apple will put Flash in iOS. Doubt it.


     


    I agree. I don't think we'll see anything resembling an implementation of flash for iOS. I thought of assigning it a hypothetical title, but it was too silly.

  • Reply 5 of 202
    dmarcootdmarcoot Posts: 191member
    absurd hire. His past experience in 90's is meaningless as it was an entirely different era. its his judgement in guiding Adobe down the wrong path this century is what matters. He wasn't simply marketing Flash (and his Marketing chops are horrific from the video Gruber linked to) , he was the CTO. His job was to give Adobe his best guidance about future technologies and he FAILED miserably.

    I am seriously questioning Cook's ability to access talent. Jobs could look right thru a guy and sum them up in a second. Cook apparently believes the resume BS and unable to judge what is important
  • Reply 6 of 202
    dreyfus2dreyfus2 Posts: 1,069member


    I think DED raised an interesting point... Could it be that Cook, while being a great CEO, does not quite have a knack for recruitment and resource management? He has backed the disastrous Browett recruitment with a vengeance, the position is still vacant and temporarily filled by an accountant named Bean (image), we do not know yet, if Ives can really stand in for Forstall (who, IMHO, was right not to apologize for Maps, was Apple's best presenter after Jobs, and did a hell of a Job managing iOS) and gave more duties to Eddy Cue, who might be a great negotiator with media companies, but has failed to deliver any barely respectable online service so far, one that can just compete with start-ups... and they had to throw serious money (deservedly, no doubt, but still) at Bob Mansfield to even stay as there was obviously no suitable replacement.


     


    Not worried about Apple's products or pipeline. But this HR story is far from convincing so far.

  • Reply 7 of 202
    Adobe is good at cranking out new versions, of existing products, with 'brutal efficiency'. Apple's recent software efforts have been lagging, in my opinion, so bringing in a guy with software experience makes some sense. Apple REALLY needs to get it's act together in Cloud services. This has never been one of the company's strengths dating all the way back to the AppleLink debacle. iCloud is really not much more than sync technology with very little application functionality. The future of software is the Cloud and having successfully helped Adobe transition many of it's applications to the Cloud I am sure Apple is looking for him to help them do the same. That's my take...
  • Reply 8 of 202
    dreyfus2dreyfus2 Posts: 1,069member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by karmadave View Post



    Adobe is good at cranking out new versions, of existing products, with 'brutal efficiency'. Apple's recent software efforts have been lagging, in my opinion, so bringing in a guy with software experience makes some sense.


     


    Um, if 'blackmailing people to update, just to get bug fixes for stuff that has been not working since the day it was released' is what you mean by 'brutal efficiency', then yes. There is nothing Apple can learn from Adobe, at least nothing that would make Apple better.

  • Reply 9 of 202
    Wow, this doesn't make a lot of sense. I've seen Lynch at AdobeMAX several times, and he's a very underwhelming speaker. I often walked away from his speeches scratching my head more than being enthused about Adobe's product announcements. His leadership of Adobe as CTO over the past several years has been questionable at best. Adobe's integration of the Macromedia product line has been a rudderless ship, with rumors of in-fighting (involving Lynch) rampant.

    What on earth can Cook see in this guy? I'm sure he's a nice guy and all, but c'mon, this is Apple. Apple doesn't hire B players.
  • Reply 10 of 202
    rogifanrogifan Posts: 10,669member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Shameer Mulji View Post


    Considering that he was aspiring to be CEO of Adobe, I highly doubt he took the position to remain 2nd in command.  I personally think he'll be Bob's new replacement.



    Can someone explain why this guy would be a good replacement for Mansfield?  Mansfield is a hardware guy.  What does this guy know about silicon, silicon, semiconductors, SOCs, wireless, etc.?

  • Reply 11 of 202

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


    Is Lynch a bozo for supporting Flash?



    Apple's ability, less than three years later, to woo Lynch away from Adobe speaks volumes about the resiliency of both parties. It's not yet obvious what Lynch will be doing at Apple however. As columnist John Gruber recently tweeted to former Apple executive Jean-Louis Gass?e, "What?s your theory? I?m at a loss, honestly. Makes no sense to me."


    Oh, for pete's sake.


     


    Why on earth would anyone hire someone who's defended Flash? Why???


     


    Answer: It's not a religion.

  • Reply 12 of 202
    rayzrayz Posts: 814member
    Mmmm. Not sure.

    Jobs said Flash was rubbish for the mobile world. This chap was tasked with fixing that. He failed so badly that Adobe was forced to pretty much abandon mobile Flash.

    Well at least he doesn't have an MBA.
  • Reply 13 of 202
    rogifanrogifan Posts: 10,669member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by dreyfus2 View Post


    I think DED raised an interesting point... Could it be that Cook, while being a great CEO, does not quite have a knack for recruitment and resource management? He has backed the disastrous Browett recruitment with a vengeance, the position is still vacant and temporarily filled by an accountant named Bean (image), we do not know yet, if Ives can really stand in for Forstall (who, IMHO, was right not to apologize for Maps, was Apple's best presenter after Jobs, and did a hell of a Job managing iOS) and gave more duties to Eddy Cue, who might be a great negotiator with media companies, but has failed to deliver any barely respectable online service so far, one that can just compete with start-ups... and they had to throw serious money (deservedly, no doubt, but still) at Bob Mansfield to even stay as there was obviously no suitable replacement.


     


    Not worried about Apple's products or pipeline. But this HR story is far from convincing so far.



    Craig Federighi took over iOS from Forstall, not Ive.  Cook decided to align human interface/software across the whole company under Ive.  Basically what Cook did was align things by function (design, hardware, software, services) instead of product lines.  Of course time will tell if he's right.  But considering Steve said Ive had more power at Apple than anyone else except himself I don't think giving him more responsibility was a bad thing.  In fact I think the only thing stopping him from being in control of all design before was Steve.  Steve had that role.  Lets not forget though that under Steve's watch we got the awful Corinthian stitched leather, the mess that is Game Center, etc.

  • Reply 14 of 202
    irelandireland Posts: 17,521member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Gazoobee View Post



    The whole question is silly. He will be working under Bob Mansfield and Bob Mansfield has already retired once and hen came back when his replacement wasn't the right guy. Whether it's a smart move or a dumb move, it seems pretty clear to me that this guy is Bob's new (possible) replacement or at least second in command.


     


    That's the vaguest clear I've ever heard.

  • Reply 15 of 202
    monstrositymonstrosity Posts: 2,182member
    Adobe has the worst UI's in the software industry. I hate them. This guy better not be another Browett.
  • Reply 16 of 202
    monstrositymonstrosity Posts: 2,182member


    You can't knock Shiller for his Flash history, because back then (in the hands of Macromedia) Flash was revolutionary.

  • Reply 17 of 202
    isaidsoisaidso Posts: 750member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by dreyfus2 View Post


    I think DED raised an interesting point... Could it be that Cook, while being a great CEO, does not quite have a knack for recruitment and resource management? He has backed the disastrous Browett recruitment with a vengeance, the position is still vacant and temporarily filled by an accountant named Bean (image), we do not know yet, if Ives can really stand in for Forstall (who, IMHO, was right not to apologize for Maps, was Apple's best presenter after Jobs, and did a hell of a Job managing iOS) and gave more duties to Eddy Cue, who might be a great negotiator with media companies, but has failed to deliver any barely respectable online service so far, one that can just compete with start-ups... and they had to throw serious money (deservedly, no doubt, but still) at Bob Mansfield to even stay as there was obviously no suitable replacement.


     


    Not worried about Apple's products or pipeline. But this HR story is far from convincing so far.



    Dreyfus, I think you may be correct on all points in your post.


    And damned you, for that.

  • Reply 18 of 202
    jimbo123jimbo123 Posts: 153member
    I scratch my head sometimes and wonder where iOS is going. It could be so much more. I usually upgrade to the latest iPhone every couple of years once my contract finnishes but I have very little inclination to do so at the moment.. Reason being iOS doesn't need it. My 4s more than powerful enough for iOS.
    Apple nailed the hardware just needs to take iOS in a new exciting direction.
  • Reply 19 of 202
    bugsnwbugsnw Posts: 708member


    Sounds like he has some insight into PDF and iOS needs a universal reader, a Preview of sorts, that can read just about any file format.


     


    I was a bit nervous after Forestall left (or was kicked out). I'm not exactly inspired by who's coming in. I hope there's more to this guy than our initial gut check.....


     


    Speaking of PDFs, PDFpen is on sale on the App store (for 48 hours).

  • Reply 20 of 202
    dmarcootdmarcoot Posts: 191member
    As a stock holder this is really the first thing Cook has done that makes me question how long I should keep my investment. This guy seems like an ass clown. The Maps apology was a mistake (they never should have. it certainly didn't have the intended effect of softening the media coverage did it?) But this guy brings nothing. His track record at adobe is proof of that. If he replaces Mansfield, Im selling.
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