Changes At The Helm At Adobe and Avid Reveal Changes In Strategy

In the world of video postproduction and motion graphics, Adobe and Avid are two of the three major players. Adobe, as well as Apple, also controls a sizeable amount of the streaming and progressive download on the internet, with the companies’ preferred formats making up well over 80% of all web video traffic.

While the longevity of its charismatic leader has always been Apple’s Achilles heel, the company continues strongly, with additional features and enhancements to its products in the high-definition production and delivery space—Final Cut Express 4 was just announced, at a slashed price of $199 even after including support for the AVC-HD H.264 tapeless consumer high-definition video format. Adobe and Avid, however, have both announced major shifts in corporate management.

Adobe, on a roll from its wildly successful Creative Suite 3 launch that firmly integrated Macromedia products such as Dreamweaver and Flash into the Adobe dynamic media tool lineup and continued to integrate products such as Visual Communicator from the Serious Magic acquisition, has recently announced that its CEO, Bruce Chizen, will step down at the end of November. The move has surprised quite a few industry watchers, as Chizen leaves at a point when his company is doing quite well. [A more detailed article for Streaming Media magazine on Adobe’s recent change in strategy was finished prior to Chizen’s announcement and will be published in the December/January issue0].

"I was a bit shocked at this announcement," said Mike Soucie, CEO of Electric Rain, an Adobe partner, in a recent interview. "Not that he is stepping down, but more of the abruptness of the announcement. If this was planned for a while due to a retirement decision, then I would have expected this type of announcement to be made during a planned analyst or financial call."

Chizen has said publicly that his departure has been planned for at least six months, and those of us who attended Adobe MAX 2007 in Chicago can now look back and see that Shantanu Narayen, then president and COO and now CEO of Adobe, was taking a central role in articulating the ongoing vision. But the company is also at a critical juncture, as it moves into service areas that some of its customers may feel are in direct competition with them. In addition, there are the impending releases of a new Flash Player, Flash Media Server 3, the Adobe Media Player (AMP)—and its myriad outstanding potential privacy and control issues—and the Adobe Integrated Runtime (AIR), which is the umbrella required to bring web-based products to the desktop. In this light, Chizen’s departure is raising concerns that Adobe could stumble as it completes its biggest overhaul since the company bought Aldus in the early 1990s.

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